Where the departed dare
There is no end to Mian Nawaz Sharif's relatively newfound powers to puzzle and mystify and create an altogether new niche for himself. The latest, he has 'directly linked' his own little run-in with the law to the grand scheme that seeks to show a treacherous side of Gen Pervez Musharraf. The only thing is that, technically, he has done it through his daughter, Maryam. It was she who delivered the words whereas the message was definitely Mian Sahib's.
Back in his hometown for a workers' convention after whirlwind proceedings in Islamabad, the duo minced no words and proclaimed that the treason case against Gen Musharraf was behind his disqualification. The suppressed chants that had been daring Mian Sahib to do more had been reciprocated.
Here he was, throwing the gauntlet, one more time, at what everyone here identifies as the establishment and follows up with the equally established 'youknow-who' reconfirmation. Decoded, it means the military, or at least those who are at the helm of the military's affairs.
Who would want to buy the rather simplistic scenario in which Nawaz and Shahbaz are not shown to be at each other's throat? "We got a treason case registered against Musharraf for abrogating the Constitution. But his case is still pending and a verdict came in my case in haste," Mian Nawaz Sharif said.
"Will we see any court hold Musharraf accountable for his crimes?" he asked: "I am hopeful one day this will happen." This may seem too distant a proposition for a country hustling and bustling and frothing at the mouth in search of accountability for its rulers. So many others will be hoping that in the interest of justice and politics free of conspiracy theories those who can - meaning Gen Musharraf's in the establishment - will call Mian Sahib's bluff not soon but here and now.
It was left to the logic at the disposal of Ms Maryam Nawaz to put two and two together and give the workers in attendance a crystal-clear case to concentrate their energies on. "When he [Nawaz] got registered a case against Musharraf, sitins began against him. Then came the news leaks and Panama Papers case and finally he was disqualified on an iqama [work permit]. This happened to my father because he did not bow. It was easy for him to choose an easy path but he didn't." The wooing by certain misguided pro-democracy sections of Pakistanis aside, bar the ever-intensifying tone, sub- stance-wise this was a repeat of the approach that the ousted prime minister and his equally irritated daughter have maintained ever since Mian Sahib's latest, and by some accounts, final exit from office. There was a slight change in the circumstances, however.
The latest in the incredible series of statements for the house of Nawaz Sharif came not too late after Mian Sahib had reportedly undertaken an important declaration. Despite some confusion on the issue it was generally believed that Mian Sahib had decided as well as spoken about his decision to flag long-time heir apparent Shahbaz Sharif as his candidate for the prime minister's office for the term scheduled to begin in 2018. To make all this appear plausible, a plane arrived here to take Shahbaz Sharif for a meeting with Saudi royalty.
This was accompanied by the usual noise where the pundits who modestly claimed to have been vindicated were outnumbered by those who raged that a deal had been arrived at. Each and every one of them was so sure that, finally, a moment had been reached which provided them with a reason to celebrate their own prowess at predicting events. Shahbaz, they boasted, not necessarily out of respect for his candidature, was set to emerge as the biggest and the most likely successor to Mian Nawaz Sharif's and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's mantle in Islamabad.
Shahbaz's 'nomination' by Nawaz led in turn to some imaginative and some run-of-the-mill scenarios - the most solemn reaction being the one in which the incorrigible romantics rued the infamily transfer of the leadership baton. For many, the formality of Nawaz naming his old running mate as his successor in itself was sufficient to turn the tables - if such an upheaval was ever required - on arch-rival Imran Khan.
A standard response to this development was one in which all the previously held fears and apprehensions were abruptly dismissed in favour of Shahbaz winning hands down in Punjab and courtesy of that win, taking the whole of Pakistan in his famous administrative grip. This was now written in our stars, over and above the heap of conspiracy theories that had been earlier invented to cast the same material, Shahbaz, as talent that had overstayed its potential by a few decades.
God knows what kind of explanations the member of the knowledgeable brigade will now have to justify the fall of Imran Khan from the imaginary pedestal just half a step away from power in Islamabad. The theories about Shahbaz Sharif having finally won the nod from the establishment, about Nawaz Sharif being on a course that will destroy his PML, and lastly, the one where Imran Khan is tipped to be the next prime minister cannot coexist. Not unless there are various strands within the establishment that are credited for pursuing each of these policies separately. But as always this will not deter us from choosing one possible explanation over another.
This is the easy way out. Who would want to buy the rather simplistic scenario in which Nawaz and Shahbaz are not shown to be at each other's throat? The element of plotting and scheming and betrayal adds so much spice to the story that thrives on clear heroes and evil villains. The feel-good stories where even the so-called conspirators are sometimes at a loss to fully and accurately predict a winner, it would seem, are in little demand. It has to be in black and white. Imran Khan - or Shahbaz Sharif - getting the prime minister's office as the establishment wanted him to. Shahbaz - or Imran - failing in their bids to be prime minister since the establishment so desired. So profound. Tightly scripted to the last comma. As if this country has not seen a prime minister disliked or even hated by the kingmakers.
When he [Nawaz] got
registered a case against