The daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz. Photo: AFP
Maryam Nawaz. Photo: AFP

Beside the grave of her mother, she sits every day and talks to her for hours. A scar on her soul has been left as she was not able to be with her mother in her dying moments. Perhaps she will live with this regret all her life.

She also has to take care of her father, who is sitting behind bars and suffering from heart disease. Her Twitter account is not as active as it was used to be; now you only see her tweeting her concerns for her father’s health and about the memories of her mother.

The traditional smile on her face is gone, and she looks like a daughter helplessly watching her father being victimized by the military establishment in Pakistan for not surrendering and for challenging its hegemony over state affairs.

The daughter of a thrice-elected prime minister of Pakistan, Maryam Nawaz perhaps is going through the most difficult patch of her life. She has lost her mother and now she fears for her ailing father, Nawaz Sharif, who despite the advice of doctors has not been transferred to a hospital for treatment of his heart disease.

Sharif’s political party and its stalwarts are busy mending fences with the establishment, thereby removing him and Maryam from the political horizon. So the center of attention is not Sharif these days; otherwise there can be no justification for the most popular party just to sit quietly and wait for the nod of the establishment instead of showing resilience and walking in his footsteps.

Nawaz Sharif has chosen to walk a path that can be termed deadly in the political and ground realities of Pakistan. So it is all left to his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who says her only source of information about her father’s health is media reports. Even Sharif’s personal doctor has raised concerns about the reports of the medical board not being shared with him.

The Sharif family and colleagues can visit him once a week, every Thursday, and that is the only direct communication they have with him. The ex-prime minister is being made an example by the invisible forces as he is not only being deprived of justice but also has been given uncivilized treatment.

According to his party, Sharif’s main crime was to open a treason case against the former dictator and army chief General Pervez Musharraf. He has paid the price for it, as not only he has he been disqualified from the office of prime minister and sent to jail but his party has been victimized in the name of accountability.

So a woman who was once famous for her fierce anti-establishment speeches and who successfully countered the narrative of the establishment against her father and her party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), has gone silent. She is quiet and tight-lipped in the hope that her uncle Shahbaz Sharif will be able to mend fences with the establishment and as a result maybe her father will be given relief.

After all, with all the strength that she possesses, she still is a daughter, and like every daughter, she wants to save her father. Another reason for her silence may be the instructions of Sharif, as he did not want to see her in jail again. But whatever the reason, her silence and the pain in her eyes are testimony that it takes everything to stand against the invisible forces in Pakistan, while watching Imran Khan in power, and him along with his sister Aleema Khan given clean chits by the courts on their undisclosed properties is testimony that it gives you everything if you stand with the powers that be in Pakistan.

It has been a journey of walking on thorns with bare feet for both Sharif and Maryam. His political credibility has been damaged in front of the segment of the masses who are fed state-sponsored one-sided narratives through the media and other sources of information and who have no knowledge of the invisible dynamics of the political proceedings in Pakistan.

However, Sharif’s vote bank remains intact and, much to the disappointment of the establishment, it has not accepted anyone other than him and Maryam as the leaders within the ranks of the PML-N. The more Sharif is victimized, the more his vote bank becomes furious, and it is gradually criticizing the establishment and refusing to endorse the narrative of the invisible forces.

Sharif might have lost his power but he has been successful in taking the battle with the invisible forces to the province of Punjab. Interestingly, Punjab has been the fort for both the establishment and Nawaz Sharif, and this battle of narratives means that Punjab has started raising its voice against the hegemony of the establishment. Perhaps Maryam should be given the credit for keeping the narrative alive and spreading it to every nook and corner of the province of Punjab.

She might be feeling the heat, she might be bearing the brunt, as watching her father in an ailing condition in a prison for the same crime that Khan and his sister were forgiven for is agonizing, but this is how things work in Pakistan. She along with her father tried to change the course, so it was always coming and it was expected that both of them would face the music.

Perhaps it is the time that PML-N as a party decides whether it is willing to take the path of Sharif or mend fences with the establishment. There is no space for the faint of heart in this decisive battle of narratives, and it has been proved time and again that Maryam is the lion heart and she is the only one who has the courage and skills to keep the anti-establishment movement alive in PML-N and in Punjab.

For many, the lady with the scars on her soul and sitting alongside her mother’s grave, concerned about her father’s health, one day probably will turn the tables. Whether she will be able to do it or not, only time will tell. However, one hopes that she will learn from this difficult time that the only way forward for democracy is civilian supremacy and an impartial justice system.

Imad Zafar

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.

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