Election roundup: The lion’s last roar?

  • The enemy of my enemy. . . 

The dust is beginning to settle, well, as much as it can settle with the Sharifs still out of the country. But even with them still in London, the cogs of the state are in motion to implement the verdict of Justice Muhammad Bashir.

Printing of ballot papers for the constituencies of Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (r) Safdar has been put on hold. New candidates have replaced the disqualified couple. The interim setup has vowed to execute the orders of the court, and NAB is already pushing for Safdar’s arrest warrants.

There seems to be a rush to get things moving, and it makes sense. Because Mian Nawaz Sharif is sitting on a powder keg ready to blow.

For now, the League has retreated into a shell, choosing to give themselves just a little room to think. But as the post-verdict haze settles, there are mutterings. Where Imran Khan has been ecstatic, Asif Zardari and others have warned caution. The decision is politically motivated they say, there was a push for it to be out before the election.

When the election cycle started, the League was a well-oiled machine and it was the squabbling PTI that was in disarray. But a series of blows has left the League down and out for the count while Imran rides a high tide.

It is strange, but the ‘wounded tiger’ ideology that Imran Khan so proudly claims as his own is exactly what the League needs.  There has been no major backlash to the decision as of yet, just a handful of Noon stalwarts coming out on the streets.

Mian Shehbaz is looking docile, seemingly waiting for big brother to make a call. But when the League does pounce, it will be for the history books.

Mian Nawaz returning to Pakistan could very well break the wave the PTI is riding.  If the former prime minister stands by his promise, that will be the day to shape this election. In the wake of the decision, a strange coalition that has been cooking for some time seems to at last be taking final form.

The major chunk of that is Mian Nawaz’s old base, upper to lower-middle-class families who have wholeheartedly accepted his anti-establishment rhetoric. Whatever else one might say, Sharif’s old conservative base coming out against the establishment is a win for democracy.

These people are not just following Nawaz Sharif, the likeable Kashmiri from Gawalmandi who promises roads, they are following Nawaz Sharif the man standing toe to toe with the military.

The second part of the coalition is the liberals, always against the heavy-handedness of the military, and now the judiciary, in state affairs. They now see Nawaz Sharif as a real option to stand up to the establishment. That Nawaz in his last government established liberal credentials courtesy the execution of Mumtaz Qadri and the introduction of secular legislation such as Women’s and Transgender Rights bills only helps.

The PML-N is wounded. It has more than enough manpower for one last heave. Nawaz Sharif returning to Pakistan to spectacular crowds would go down in history. If and when that does happen, whatever the end result is or is not, you can bet it’ll shake this election to the core.

Game on.






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