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Muhammad Azam|

It’s been four days since the Supreme Court verdict, in Panama Case, and gradually, in steps and stages, a clearer picture of the political chessboard is materializing before us.

Khan also does not afford to send the message that his fight is not against corruption but only against Nawaz. If PPP decides to give Bilawal Bhutto greater profile on this issue then a more close coordination may emerge between PTI and PPP.

The opposition, that has remained split, since the stormy days of 2007, now finally seem to have united against the Nawaz government. The current narrative of almost every major opposition party, and political entity from Bar Associations to major publications is that the Prime Minister of Pakistan has lost his moral authority to lead the country. Despite frenzied attempts by Islamabad’s political establishment, PMLN leaders and aligned tv channels nicknamed as Ptv-2 and Ptv-3, to label the verdict as a victory for the government, the national conversation on the street, college canteens and drawing rooms is slowly gaining momentum in favor of the argument of the opposition parties – that Nawaz Sharif has lost his moral authority to govern.

Read more: After Panama: The ‘Untouchable Elites’ survive to live another day

Despite frenzied attempts by Islamabad’s political establishment, PMLN leaders and aligned tv channels nicknamed as Ptv-2 and Ptv-3, to label the verdict as a victory for the government, the national conversation on the street, college canteen and drawing room is slowly gaining momentum in favor of the argument of the opposition parties – that Nawaz Sharif has lost his moral authority to govern.

The PPP has come out swinging after the verdict. Recalling the 2012 Case of ‘Letter to Swiss Authorities’, when PM Gillani was resisting Supreme Court orders to write a letter to Swiss Authorities to open up old cases, the PPP’s leadership now reminded Prime Minister Nawaz of his statements in which he publicly asked the then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani to step down citing the loss of moral authority.

Asif Ali Zardari, while petitioning the Prime Minister to step down, also stated that he knew Nawaz Sharif would never resign consensually but rather will have to be dragged off his seat.

Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English paper and respected world wide for its balanced positions, published a well argued editorial, on Saturday, “What Next for Nawaz?” suggesting that its time for PM Nawaz to step aside.

PTI chairman Imran Khan congratulated his party workers and claimed the verdict was a victory. The public stance of PTI and PPP regarding the Panama verdict is unanimous, however, in his recent statements Imran Khan has condemned both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, stating that both of them are equally corrupt. It is clear that Imran Khan is not willing to give up any ground to the PPP following the verdict. Khan also cannot afford to send the message that his fight is not against corruption but only against Nawaz. If PPP decides to give Bilawal Bhutto a greater profile on this issue then a closer coordination may emerge between PTI and PPP. PTI has started to position itself for intense campaigning nationwide with upcoming rallies in Sindh and Islamabad. PPP is doing the same.

Apart from two main parties -PPP and PTI- second tier parties like the Jamat-e-Islami along with smaller parties; Majlis-e-Wahdatal Muslimeen (MWM), Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), Sunni Itehad Council (SIC), and Sheikh Rashid’s Awami Muslim League (AML) have all issued statements calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister.

While Nawaz government can attack the opposition demands as “politics as usual” it is difficult to reject other voices in a similar fashion. Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English paper, and respected worldwide for its balanced positions, published a well-argued editorial, on Saturday, “What Next for Nawaz?” suggesting that it’s time for PM Nawaz to step aside.

Political moment is now markedly different from 2014; then during ‘dharnas’ military establishment was seen as a political pole, then Nawaz Sharif, elected only a year earlier, could assemble all political parties in his defense as “defense of democracy’; now military under Gen. Bajwa, is seen as neutral and subordinated to PM Nawaz.

Dawn, country’s most respected publication, that cannot be considered anti-Nawaz by any stretch of the imagination, argued that in wake of Supreme Court decision Nawaz may still be legally secure but has lost the moral and political legitimacy for holding the highest office. It laid out two options for the Prime Minister: either to step down temporarily for the duration of the investigation or dissolve the parliament and conduct new elections. But Dawn was not the only odd one out. The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) called a press conference, on Saturday, and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif within seven days. Bar Association threatened that if PM Nawaz fails to resign then it may launch a movement on the lines of lawyers movement of 2007. President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Justice (retd.) Rasheed Rizvi also backed the demand of the Lahore High Court Bar Association.

Read more: Where does our recent history stand on delivering justice to Pakistani…

Military under Gen. Bajwa, is seen as neutral and subordinated to PM Nawaz. Politics has absorbed this and now, in an election year, Nawaz is the real power, the King emperor, with his pants down and political mood is not to give him any more chances.

On Sunday, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) called the LHCBA’s move ‘premature’. But PBC vice chairman Mr. Ahsan Boon added that in principle they also feel that PM Nawaz has lost the moral authority and should resign but a conference will take place between lawyers’ representatives from across the country before any decision is taken with regard to the Panama verdict.

Political moment is now markedly different from 2014; then during ‘dharnas’ military establishment was seen as a political pole, then Nawaz Sharif, elected only a year earlier, could assemble all political parties in his defense as “defense of democracy’; now military under Gen. Bajwa, is seen as neutral and subordinated to PM Nawaz. Politics has absorbed this and now, in an election year, Nawaz is the real power, the King emperor, with his pants down and the political mood is not to give him any more chances.

Terrorists have often struck at politically important junctures of Pakistani politics – like the APS attack in December 2014, when Imran Khan had started shutting down one after the other city across Pakistan; they argue.

The PML-N government, on the other hand, has started to rev up its rhetoric. The police presence in Islamabad seems to have doubled overnight and pro-Nawaz ads are regularly blaring on the popular radio stations. Since the Supreme Court decision, news broadcasts and anchors of certain TV channels appear to be under tremendous pressure to declare the Court decision as a victory for the ruling Sharif family. The Prime Minister’s henchmen are also competing for air-time and have initiated a wave of verbal assault on the opposition, foremost and most vicious amongst them appears to be the Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali whose main occupation since the verdict has been to make personal attacks on both Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan.

In a press conference on Sunday, Hanif Abassi, PML-N leader from Rawalpindi, and head of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro project unleashed a barrage of savage insults on both Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan, escalating the intensity of rhetoric from his party. The political establishment seems to be focusing its energies towards public opinion and trying its utmost to distract the public from the legal proceedings. However, it is turning out to be an uphill battle for them.

Many analysts privately fear that, if the past is any witness, some accidents like massive terrorism may happen to divert attention. Terrorists have often struck at politically important junctures of Pakistani politics – like the APS attack in December 2014, when Imran Khan had started shutting down one after the other city across Pakistan; they argue.

So far, the three main pro-Nawaz parties (JUI-F, ANP, and MQM) have maintained their silence. Maulana Fazal ur Rehman’s JUIF is, in fact, the government’s ally and its silence since Thursday is significant. Apparently, these political parties are quietly assessing the public and media mood before taking a position. As of yet, there have not been any public demonstrations, save the token rally of PML-N supporters in Karachi, but the tension in the air is palpable – like a lull before the storm. Will opposition be able to capitalize on this historic moment? It remains to be seen.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Shame ion Bajwa for keeping Army subordinated to Naeaz, hobdold himself for the position. Thus is real Pakistan, But edit s minute, Whstbwill happen if Nawaz leaves it will be Zardari again to Raorvthe country further, so the thieves play the mudical chair .

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