Nawaz Sharif has spoken again. In his second video appearance, the previous prime minister and leader of the PML-N addressed his party’s central executive committee and barrelled ahead with an equivalent aggressive tone that he had utilized in his speech at the multiparty conference earlier within the month. His Wednesday’s remarks have confirmed that he has selected the direction of his party’s politics for the nonce . Sparks will still fly.
Read: Struggle not against Imran Khan but those that brought him into power, says Nawaz
These sparks, however, denote quite just the start of confrontational politics; they supply a touch that something larger is patterning itself on our landscape. A shift went on . Nawaz Sharif’s speeches are an impact , not a cause, of this randomly deliberate change unfurling before our eyes.
The key aspect of this alteration is an organically processed realignment of political war fronts. The pre-MPC fronts looked something like this:
PTI vs. PML-N; PTI vs. PPP; PTI vs. JUI-F; and (most importantly) PTI vs. PTI.
These were simple equations that reflected two key realities. One, the opposition parties were willing to bargain for space with the establishment without rocking the boat (this is why PML-N and PPP had stayed faraway from JUI-F’s march to Islamabad last year). Two, with the opposition grappling with its internal confusion and contradictions, PTI had started locking horns with itself over governance troubles. The sum of this example was thus: pliant opposition, incompetent government, and an institution beyond the reach of critique.
The post-MPC fronts look something like this: PTI vs. PDM; and PML-N vs. Establishment.
The new equation has complicated matters. Inside the Red Zone today there exists a component of dread that comes with the warning shots of an impending conflict. the first signs of this conflict have already appear — stepped up accountability process with new summons, notices and NAB cases, arrest of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif and possibilities of further incarcerations, return of Nawaz Sharif to a lively political role with weaponised rhetoric, and therefore the announcement of PDM’s protest schedule starting with a jalsa in Quetta.
But the undercurrents are more ominous. The opposition’s grand PDM alliance is now under the heavy influence of two hawks: Nawaz Sharif and Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Both even have an honest equation with one another . During the discussions on FATF between the treasury and opposition benches inside the parliament, Maulana Fazlur Rehman kept an immediate contact with Nawaz Sharif who successively wont to tell his senior party colleagues within the parliament to hold JUI-F with them altogether decisions. At one point when the PML-N and PPP delegations met the govt team and agreed to certain drafts without consulting JUI-F, the maulana had called Nawaz Sharif late in the dark to complain. As a result, the PML-N team got an earful from their leader.
Nawaz has constituency and parliamentary numbers and therefore the maulana commands street numbers. it’s a potent combination when loaded with weaponised rhetoric. This potency are going to be tested in October because the PDM fires up its anti-PTI campaign altogether provincial capitals. Two things are going to be of note in these rallies: one, are the speeches calibrated on a singular theme; two, how closely is that this theme attuned to Nawaz Sharif’s position. Both these aspects will help determine which of the 2 new war fronts is that the primary one: PDM vs. PTI or PML-N vs. Establishment.
PTI leaders hope it’s the latter. But the more politically savvy ones within the federal cabinet also dread it. they need good reason to. If the PDM vs. PTI equation becomes the first one, the framing of the fight will remain confined to governance and accountability issues. But if the PML-N vs. Establishment equation jumps to fore, the framing will expand to incorporate the important sizzler: legitimacy.
Is this really a sizzler? In terms of clear and present danger to the existence of the PTI government, it is not. But this much even opposition leaders acknowledge: they’re in no position to cause the downfall of the govt at this stage unless they resort to collective resignations. This, however, is that the last card — if one — and therefore the opposition is unlikely to play it so early within the conflict. On the opposite hand, the difficulty of legitimacy — if presented and established effectively — can become the core of the opposition’s narrative for the 2023 general elections.
Too vague? Not if you think about the legitimacy under question is that of the whole process which produced the system that holds the reins of power in Pakistan after the 2018 elections. Hawks within the opposition believe legitimising this process will make it easy to repeat it in 2023. Therefore, the important issue, they say, isn’t what the PTI government is doing today but how it became the govt within the first place.
Their logic: so as to save lots of 2023, you’ve got to discredit 2018.
This is risky stuff. More so when the key proponent is susceptible to severe legal consequences as a results of staying put in London. The strong remarks made by the Islamabad supreme court on Wednesday against Nawaz’s absence were a mirrored image of hardening attitudes which will create problems of a long-term nature.
This is also risky stuff within the context of a blowback. PML-N has displayed remarkable resilience within the face of relentless pressure these previous couple of years. the very fact that it’s still intact, and holding on to its core in Punjab, may be a testament to the strength of its political roots.
But the new aggressive tone will have many quiet detractors within the party itself. they’ll are cowed into silence after Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest, but silence isn’t necessarily acquiescence.
Their logic: so as to save lots of 2023, you’ve got to leverage 2018.
As the drums of war begin to beat, the warring sides are faraway from certain where this conflict could also be heading. Uncertainty can project weakness, but within the hands of an able commander, it also can become a weapon of choice.
It all begins today. Welcome to October.