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August 12, 2018

Why Takht-e-Lahore fell


August 12, 2018

Mian Shahbaz Sharif knew it well that the path his elder brother Nawaz Sharif had adopted after his disqualification had ended his chances of becoming the prime minister. Till elections, he could not come out of the confusion over the ‘narrative’, which ultimately brought fall to ‘Takht-e-Lahore’.

Now, it is all over as far as the PML-N’s chances of forming governments in the Centre and Punjab are concerned. By August 16, the new prime minister and his government will be in place, followed by the governments in provinces.

It is time for Shahbaz to decide whether he really wants to play the role of an opposition leader or not in the assembly.

Shahbaz had no experience of leading an opposition movement. Assigning anybody the role of an opposition leader is something different from playing the role of an opposition leader against the government of an opponent.

Shahbaz had offered stiff opposition to the PPP government of Asif Ali Zardari, but as the chief minister of Punjab. Today, it is different as not only him but his party is also in the opposition, both in the Centre and in Punjab. The sooner he accepts this fact is better it is.

The narrative of Nawaz Sharif, irrespective of how strong and politically romantic it might be, would ultimately lead to a prison, if not to the gallows, and keep you away from power for long. You can't dream of power by taking head-on with two strongest institutions in the country.

This narrative led to the fall of ‘Takht-e-Lahore’, and until and unless Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s possible government in Punjab commits too many mistakes and blunders, the chances of the PML-N’s return to power look quite bleak.

Therefore, Shahbaz has to decide soon about his role in the opposition. And if he is not ready to play the leading role, it would be better if he nominates some other senior member as the leader of the opposition.

Nawaz and Shahbaz can now look towards Maryam and Hamza to carry their political and family legacy, but it has also provided an opportunity to Sharifs to reform the party and allow senior party leaders to lead the party. ‘Nazariati’ (ideological) Nawaz Sharif can transform the PML into a true ‘nazariati’ party, for which Shahbaz Sharif, rather Sharifs, has to come out of the Imran phobia.

Imran is the ultimate outcome of the failure of the PML-N and the PPP, and their political flaws. They should not monitor his political achievements and policies and benefit from the mistakes he commits.

The sooner Shahbaz recovers from the loss of Takht-e-Lahore the better will be for him. Though, the PML-N had not performed badly in provincial assembly elections, results could have been much different in favour of the PML-N had Nawaz resolved party's internal conflict.

His defensive posture has only added to further demoralisation in the party and also in the opposition camp. His decision to stay back from Islamabad protest for a very lame reason did not go well, either for himself, his jailed brother, or for his workers.

You can't play a role of an opposition leader with a defeated mindset and this is what he could learn from Imran Khan, said one opposition leader on condition of anonymity.

The PTI leader, after party's defeat in the Election 2013, did not sit back and maintained the pressure in the name of re-opening of four constituencies. He succeeded in uplifting the morale of the party.

Initially, Shahbaz thought that Takht could have been saved had his brother not taken a suicidal path and kept his tone soft towards the institutions like superior judiciary and the establishment. But, the events which unfolded after Nawaz's aggressive and, to a large extent abusive tone, sealed all the chances of the PML-N in the elections and retaining power at the Centre and in Punjab.

What happened in Balochistan in the Senate elections, cracks in the party in south Punjab, Nawaz’s differences with Shahbaz's closest colleague, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and ultimate verdict against Nawaz weeks before general elections made things quite visible.

An appeal against the conviction is perhaps Nawaz Sharif’s last hope after party's defeat in the elections and Shahbaz is finding it hard to play a role of a true opposition leader, as he still looks confused.

Thus, Shahbaz can look towards his brother for the reasons behind the fall of ‘Takht-e-Lahore’, as Nawaz knew that after his disqualification for life by a larger bench of the Supreme Court had practically sealed his chances to return to power.

The PML-N was perhaps not prepared for the path adopted by Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, which looked very aggressive. But the party like Muslim League and its Punjab chapter were not ready to go too far in this struggle as they knew that it would end whatever chances they had to retain power, at least in Punjab.

What happened in the last one year, from July 25, 2017 to July 25, 2018, as a result of Nawaz Sharif's narrative, also disbanded the PML-N power base called Takht-e-Lahore.

This is how the events unfolded one by one, both in the party and in power politics and allowed further space for their rival and rising Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which, for the first time, stand a bright chance of forming the government in the Centre and more importantly in Punjab, besides Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and coalition government in Balochistan.

As a student of politics, it was not difficult to understand why Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went to the gallows. Was it merely a murder trial, directly conducted by the high court in an unprecedented way or was it the fear of Bhutto’s possible return to power that he was not spared despite world leaders’ appeal.

It did not end with Bhutto’s execution, but what happened with the PPP in the 11 years of General Zia is a matter of history and how thousands of PPP workers suffered including Bhutto’s family.

Shahbaz may not be as active as Benazir was as an opposition leader. Despite criticism of her decision to take power in 1988 after making a compromise in 1988 or an ‘NRO’ in 2007, she was a fighter as a leader and a bravo, who was ultimately assassinated on Dec 27, 2007.

The PML-N and Sharifs, despite Nawaz Sharif’s imprisonment, have a much better political atmosphere than in the days of dictatorship. If Shahbaz thinks he can't play the role of a true opposition leader, he should pave the way for others to lead the opposition within the PML-N or let some young leader like Hamza or Bilawal Bhutto to lead the opposition.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO