Nawaz Sharif's remarks on the Mumbai attacks have seen him accused of being 'anti-Pakistan'. Photo: Reuters / Mian Khursheed

Leadership is not about glory and winning power. It actually is a test of a man’s character when the stakes are high and the possible consequences are worst. Pakistani ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif is going through the most testing times of his life, when he not only has to prove his ability to face his adversaries, but he also needs to keep his political party intact. So far he has proved his mettle by not bowing down to the invisible forces.

Recently Sharif was moved from jail to a hospital and kept under observation, as he had been facing health issues in prison. The moment Sharif was moved to the hospital, rumors about a possible deal between him and the invisible forces began spreading.

The government led by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party gave the impression that Sharif was ready to pay money and obey the orders of the government in order to get out of jail and be sent abroad. Such propaganda was spread around the clock, as in psychological warfare aimed at demoralizing the opponent’s camp. The PTI-led government and the military establishment tried their best to create an impression that Sharif was requesting safe passage – it was a deliberate attempt to demoralize his supporters and an effort to dismantle his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which despite all the efforts of his adversaries is still intact.

Sharif, however, proved everyone wrong by declining to be moved to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology and, against the advice of the doctors of Services Hospital in Lahore where he had been kept under observation, asked the authorities to move him back to jail.

This move by Sharif has not only given the signal that he is ready to fight to the end, but it has also added more worries to the weak PTI government and the establishment that is gradually and slowly losing its grip on proceedings. Perhaps the invisible forces by bringing in an inexperienced government actually hampered their own chances of winning the ongoing political game.

Perhaps the invisible forces by bringing in an inexperienced government actually hampered their own chances of winning the ongoing political game

The PTI government has mocked Sharif’s illness just as it mocked the late Kalsoom Nawaz, his wife, and she had to die to prove that the Imran Khan-led PTI has no moral and ethical values and that it does not even spare a patient on her death bed to settle personal scores. This time the target is Sharif himself, whose illness has been termed a drama in order to go abroad citing medical reasons. But his daughter Maryam Nawaz has given a stern warning to the government that if anything happens to Sharif, the government will be held responsible and she will not sit silently.

Whether Maryam will take to streets and strengthen her father’s narrative remains the question, but there is no doubt that the invisible forces and the government are losing their nerve and seem agitated by the support Sharif still enjoys in his power base of Punjab. Adding to their worries are the economic crisis and the dwindling foreign reserves and the inability of the PTI to govern the country and handle the shrewd civil bureaucracy. This is the reason that both the invisible forces and the government want Sharif to accept exile so they can at least ease the political pressure for a while.

However, Sharif, being a clever politician, knows the game well: If he wanted a deal he could have made one when he was given a message by certain quarters to stay in London and they would not proceed with the cases against him. Right now there is no point in making a deal or surrendering, as Sharif’s presence in jail is not only keeping his party intact but it is strengthening his narrative of being victimized by the judiciary at the behest of inviable forces.

Power games are very strange in nature, as can be seen by the current state of affairs. The invisible forces who wanted to keep Sharif behind bars at one time now are trying everything to get him out of jail and to send him into exile as a result of a deal. On the other hand, Sharif, who knows the game better then any other current player, is in no mood to get out of jail, as he believes that the current set-up cannot be sustained for too long as it lacks the genuine mandate of the people and the ability to govern the country.

However, the invisible forces are still trying their best somehow to control the proceedings and are still trying hard to maneuver around the political chessboard. Analysts have kept warning of the consequences of such political engineering, but the invisible forces never pay heed to advice. It is an era of globalization and information and gradually it is becoming hard to play the games that were successful few years back, as the information revolution has virtually revealed all the conspiracies being hatched from behind the scenes.

Contrary to what many analysts believe, Sharif’s agenda is still very much alive and he remains the center of attraction in Pakistan’s politics. He therefore seems uninterested in making any deal to avoid imprisonment, and each and every single day he spends behind bars will put immense pressure on the invisible forces and the incumbent government.

The masses in both rural and urban Punjab in spite of around-the-clock propaganda sympathize with Sharif, and holding him in prison has intensified this sympathy for him. You talk to a cab driver or a laborer in Punjab or any common man and he will tell you that Sharif was doing well in the governance domain and he was ousted by the establishment. The inefficient chief minister of Punjab and the federal cabinet full of inexperienced and emotional ministers have resulted in a government that is virtually ineffective.

This battle on the power chessboard was and still is between the Sharif and the invisible forces, and Prime Minister Imran Khan is just a pawn who surely will be sacrificed sooner or later. By going back to jail instead of resting in hospital, Sharif has won another round of the nerve-racking battle. However, who will be knocked out of the game will depend on the times to come.

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