Maryam in the mix

30 Sep 2020

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NEVER the ideal indulgence for the fainthearted, politics in Pakistan may be poised to enter a real action-packed phase. This is indicated by the tone of important opposition politicians and reconfirmed by the rigid response of the current custodians of the system. The latest, as anticipated, Shahbaz Sharif has been arrested and Maryam Nawaz has spoken. Mr Shahbaz ‘in’ the lock-up and Ms Nawaz ‘out’ in the open could actually mean Shahbaz left ‘out’ of the game to ponder over latest reconciliatory techniques and Ms Nawaz being ‘in-charge’. Those willing the PML-N to take the more adventurous route are so excited to see their leader’s daughter assume the mantle. Already, it has been presumed that the most daring and never trodden road to salvation that Nawaz Sharif and Ms Nawaz have been promising to take is beckoning as a real possibility. In the time since the new potential ‘in-charge’ of the House of Sharif’s political affairs declared ‘war’ on those on the other side of the divide, the stress has been on finding signs that will determine just how strong a punch the opposition can make of it. The opposition leaders say the fight is inevitable, and given the resolve of the accountability people, and frankly considering the one-sidedness of the drive in the name of rooting out the corrupt, the general belief would be that a big collision is imminent.

The cases against top-notch opposition leaders are at a critical stage and their parties cannot afford to just sit and watch the proceedings passively. Ms Nawaz and other opposition politicians have linked the intensification of the government’s ‘biased’ accountability swoop on forthcoming elections for the Gilgit-Baltistan assembly. The Senate polls due next March would certainly be a much bigger reason for the further heating up of the political scene. However, the genuineness of causes and the change in the mood of any opposition politician with howsoever big a following cannot guarantee strength to the push against the government. Most crucially here, the target has to be selected carefully, what with so much talk about there being a hybrid regime in place.

A telltale clue to just how tough matters can turn out to be was provided by none other than Ms Nawaz in Monday’s presser. The PML-N workers she inspires must have been hoping this was the moment the defiant leader in her came of age. Their spirits might have been lifted by glimpses of that leader flashing from the stage, but for the first time perhaps she betrayed another side to her — the side which told her not everyone could carry the weight of the narrative she and her father have championed. Perhaps a bit of Shahbaz Sharif coming in to temper a Nawaz Sharif protégé? Ultimately, it is always this mix that determines the future course.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020