Friday March 01, 2024

Round four: will he, won’t he?

By Editorial Board
December 02, 2023

Nawaz Sharif is not hiding the vindication his homecoming has accorded him and his party. 

A man ousted from power, dragged through courtrooms, incarcerated and humiliated, losing family along the way, is not just back but is back with what others see as an almost prime ministerial protocol. 

Doors are opened and the red carpets are laid out now for the PML-N’s supreme leader who till just a few months back was in medical exile, persona non grata for some time on the media, and titled the country’s supreme ‘absconder’. 

Round four: will he, won’t he?

For most, the signs seem to point to another Nawaz PM-ship. However, according to a report published in this paper, Nawaz Sharif has not yet decided whether he will become the prime minister again if the PML-N wins the upcoming general elections. His party seems to want to see him as PM for the fourth time, some calling it a “sweet revenge of democracy” from those who had removed him in 2017. According to some political analysis, this sentiment is not just of PML-N leaders but Nawaz himself and that if Nawaz is able to contest the polls after getting his lifetime disqualification overturned and if his party forms the government, he will be the PML-N’s PM candidate.

The various equations regarding Nawaz becoming prime minister for the fourth time include his ascent to the PM House as a message to those in the previous institutional power structures that he stands vindicated. There is also the thinking that even if he were to become the PM again, it may be for a short period after which he could hand the baton over to his brother Shehbaz Sharif. He would most likely do this for a couple of reasons: one, the message to those who ousted him and make a point, and two, to pave the way for his daughter Maryam Nawaz in both politics and his party. There is also Nawaz Sharif’s track record of falling out with our powerful power-brokers whenever he has come to power. The idea is that he may refrain from doing so this time around – not because of some change of heart but because he would rather his daughter be seen as a palatable option by the country’s powerful quarters.

That Nawaz is a uniting figure in the PML-N is a given. We already saw how in his absence both Maryam and Shehbaz had been divisive due to their different style of politics. There have been some indications that Nawaz would like Maryam to have a role in the Punjab government but for that he would ideally have to first establish that his own politics this time will be conciliatory rather than aggressive and that his daughter would follow suit. While this may be a tough ask for democrats in any country, Pakistan has been running on a hybrid democratic model since Project Imran. It is very unlikely that this will change any time soon – Nawaz or no Nawaz. Any attempts to roll back this ‘model’ democracy would involve politicians ready to work with each other instead of against each other, looking at politics as a means to democracy and governance instead of cushy power and unaccountable pelf. Given our politics and the individuals who make it, this seems to be decades in the making – if at all. This is an unfortunate reality that political parties have somehow not only reconciled with but embraced. This is also a reality that the people of Pakistan continue to pay a price for.