A file photo of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at a news conference in Islamabad. Photo: Reuters / Faisal Mahmood
A file photo of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at a news conference in Islamabad. Photo: Reuters / Faisal Mahmood

In what can be described as another blow to the establishment in Pakistan, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif while recording his statement in an accountability court accused the military establishment of conspiring against him.

In his statement, Sharif said the sit-in of 2014 was staged to oust him and was backed by the army high command at the time. Furthermore, Sharif accused the army establishment of victimizing him through the courts.

An emotional Sharif also raised questions in his statement on why only elected representatives are termed as corrupt and traitors, adding that the reasons should be investigated.

Sharif also stated that he had been ousted by the army for bringing the ex-dictator General Pervez Musharraf to court and initiating a treason case against him according to the law.

A defiant Sharif also criticized the judiciary’s role and the accountability judge if he could ask why senior judges had always validated martial law, which was against the spirit of the constitution, and why dictators like Musharraf were not put on trial for suspending the constitution.

Sharif also accused the establishment of framing him in the Panama Papers case in spite of the fact that his name was not included in the Panama leaks.

He termed the entire Panama Papers case a conspiracy and an act of revenge against him for trying to bring Musharraf to the court of justice.

Sharif also stated that a former intelligence chief had told him to resign or go on a long vacation, but he did not listen to his advice, which resulted in his ouster in the wake of a controversial court decision.

As if all that were not enough, Sharif after the court proceedings called a press conference and read his court statement out, making it public and known to every one.

Sharif is the first politician in the history of Pakistan who has not only alleged direct influence of the military establishment and its conspiracies to oust civilian governments, but has also made such a statement part of court proceedings.

While the backlash in Pakistan after Sharif’s controversial statement on the Mumbai attacks is still not over, his latest remarks and statement in the court have actually worsened the already hostile relations between his political party and the military establishment. For the very first time, the public is getting a glimpse of what actually happens in the power corridors and how conspiracies are hatched by the military establishment to overthrow elected representatives and governments.

After all, a thrice-elected prime minister is giving an undertaking in the court and revealing the conspiracies hatched by the military establishment for his ouster and to topple civilian governments.

Sharif’s current stance against the military establishment may seem a suicidal attack to many analysts, as no political party in Pakistan can afford the wrath of the military leadership and win a general election against all the odds, but Sharif’s close aides are very confident that they will beat the odds. The reasons are Sharif’s popularity and the charged crowd in his public gatherings in spite of the fact that he has been accused of blasphemy and treason by the powerful military establishment.

In presence of a hostile and united opposition backed by the establishment, whether this confrontation strategy of Sharif will be able to yield fruitful results for his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) remains a puzzle. The changing landscape and voters’ dislike fof the establishment’s influence over elections and civilian governments is a factor that seems to be in favor of Sharif.

But all the other factors are against him. The way he is confronting the establishment and his revelation of the secrets regarding its role in political matters has already created irritation within his own party ranks.

His main opponent, Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, is taking advantage of the current situation and is taking into his party every electable defector from Sharif’s PML-N.

Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz, who is heading the party right now, also appears not to be happy about Sharif ’s current stance against the establishment. Keeping this scenario in view, it seems Sharif is not interested in elections at all, and that is why he is heading toward an inevitable confrontation that can prove catastrophic for the political process.

It is also important to note that the workers in Sharif’s party are not familiar with or properly trained for agitation politics. So if Sharif is expecting a massive agitation movement, he cannot launch that movement by banking only on his workers.

That is why the current political scenario can be termed as a jigsaw puzzle, as no one is certain about the outcome. Given the circumstances and the different surveys, PML-N is likely to win most of the Punjab constituencies; even if the elections are rigged by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf it will not be able to win more then 50 National Assembly seats from across the country. The same is the case with the Pakistan Peoples Party, which is also supposed to win around 50 National Assembly seats.

Independent candidates and those from religious parties that win seats could help Khan or Asif Zardari form a coalition government, but in any case, Khan will not become the prime minister until his party can win an absolute majority in upcoming elections.

So, keeping this calculation in mind, Sharif might be taking the risk of his life by banking on people in Punjab to vote for his party in such a manner that in spite of rigging in the general elections PML-N should emerge as the single largest party in the National Assembly and somehow retain its provincial government in Punjab by winning a simple majority in the province.

However, for this to happen, the voters for PML-N in Punjab need to turn out in such large numbers that even the rigging will prove ineffective and useless. This may seem impossible to many analysts but it is possible keeping in view the history of Pakistan.

In 1988, the establishment with all its efforts and rigging of the elections was not able to stop Benazir Bhutto from getting a simple majority in parliament. Sharif at that time was the blue-eyed boy of the establishment, so no one knows better than he that fortunes can turn provided the cards are played at the right time and at the right place.

Only the results of the upcoming general elections will solve the mystery, but regardless of the results the damage to the establishment has already been done, as the conspiracies hatched behind the scenes have now been brought out in the public, and the common man seems not to like the undue influence of the establishment on political matters.

Probably the chances for a victory after the next general elections may appear dim for the ruling party but the secrets revealed in the power tussle between Sharif and establishment have created an opportunity for Pakistanis to debate and discuss the role of the establishment in making and removing elected governments.

A win for the masses, it seems.

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.