What lies ahead for Nawaz Sharif?

By MURTAZA SOLANGI — The four-day-long march of former Premier Nawaz Sharif has ended but our search for answers about the destiny of Pakistan and its fragile, eternally vulnerable, and besieged democracy continues.

From start to finish, the message Nawaz Sharif hammered home was on humiliation of the public mandate in the wake of his disqualification on July 20. The five-member bench was hit hard during his speeches that declared the verdict a miscarriage of justice and one that was over and above the charges he was facing. Though he did not name names but the message was crystal clear: He pointed fingers at an apparent revival of the nexus between the garrison and the judiciary – etched in the sad history of Pakistan.

Pundits are puzzled about short-term and long-term objectives of Sharif’s march on the historic Grand Trunk Road. The accusations raised by Sharif’s detractors concerning the match paint a rainbow of opinions of all colours and shades.

He is trying to build pressure on the judiciary and the establishment to cut a deal and avoid the upcoming accountability trial, they say.

Now that the accountability trial against the former premier and his family is about to start, analysts are split over how the Apex court and the establishment may respond to this wave of protests by the ruling party that is acting like an opposition.

One thing is clear that streets are no longer the sole domain of the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. With Nawaz Sharif out of the Prime Minister’s House, the PTI should be prepared for a tough match ahead. The roaring cries of the public in rallies along the GT Road have already put the pro-PTI pundits on the backfoot.

“It is not about the five judges now. If and when the review petition knocks on the door of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Pakistan would have to listen to this roar coming from the heartland of Punjab. When those in the streets speak up, everybody has to listen to them. If they [SC] listened to the lockdown calls by Imran Khan and admitted his petition earlier thrown out as frivolous, how could they not listen to this march?,” asked a top legal mind of the country requesting anonymity. He believes the courts might give Sharif a favourable response at least on the matter of the monitoring judge and on the six-month bar mentioned in the July 20 verdict.

So far, the former premier’s calls for constitutional reforms have not generated any response from most other major political parties of the country.

PPP has pooh poohed these calls. Religious parties too have opposed them. But pundits believe the super dealmaker, Asif Ali Zardari, may surprise everyone and give Nawaz Sharif a positive response in a grand bargain, while MQM-Pakistan has already been taken on board.

Some pundits go even further. If Nawaz Sharif doesn’t achieve the aforementioned short-term objectives and the going gets tough, he may opt for early elections hoping to secure an even bigger mandate to push through systemic changes he has hinted during the GT Road rally.

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