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

Political life has never been easy in Pakistan because leaders face round-the-clock propaganda against them. From mainstream media to digital platforms and from textbooks to the pseudo-intellectuals, every medium of communication is influenced by the invisible forces, who spread propaganda against the parties and political leaders who stand for democratic supremacy in Pakistan.

The joint opposition recently sat together at the invitation of Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto to devise a strategy to defeat the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). It was a scene where the next generation of the Bhutto and Sharif families were sitting together to fight the battle for the supremacy of democracy like their elders. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif signed the Charter of Democracy in 2006 to challenge the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf. Thirteen years have passed since this agreement between two main political parties but Pakistan is still under a dictatorship, only the mechanism has changed. Instead of coming from the front, the establishment is controlling the proceedings with the help of a puppet prime minister, Imran Khan.

The faceless coup that threw Sharif out of power through a controversial judicial decision curbed the freedom of the media and hijacked the ballot. It was more dangerous than previous coups, which at least were open and had a face in the form of military dictators.

The experiment of bringing Khan to power through pre-poll rigging has backfired as the country is facing the worst economic turmoil because of the inept and inefficient governance of the PTI. So opposition parties standing together to dislodge the establishment-backed party is a natural thing. However, the establishment and Khan both seem nervous about the opposition that has joined hands to oust the PTI government and as a counterattack, it has again launched the same decades-old propaganda against the main political parties, the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Since most of the people in Pakistan do not like to read or do research, it has always been easy for the invisible forces to successfully persuade the masses to believe their propaganda. The blind followers of the establishment and PTI, who know little of the history of Pakistan and are unaware of the invisible dynamics of its political discourse, are unable to understand that in a democratic society it is the masses who give authority to political leaders.

There are many rich families in Pakistan, but they cannot make their sons or daughters political leaders because masses do not accept them. Likewise, the dictators and the establishment tried their best to launch the king parties and to make them popular but they failed miserably. On the other hand, the popular political parties like the PPP and the PML-N, which have grassroots support, are still intact and popular with the masses because their vote bank is intact and people believe their narratives.

Since most of the people in Pakistan do not like to read or do research, it has always been easy for the invisible forces to successfully persuade the masses to believe their propaganda

In a meeting of the joint opposition, the PML-N delegation was led by Maryam Nawaz, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, which was a clear signal that she has taken control of the party and that it will be following the Sharif family’s  “Respect the Vote” narrative.

Maryam, who is going to hold a public PML-N gathering on May 28, is also active in media now and her aggressive statements are putting the incumbent government under immense pressure. After all, a government with a fractured mandate is threatened by an opposition leader who is ready to risk everything and is mobilizing her vote bank. The same is the case with the establishment, as at this juncture when the country is embroiled in an economic crisis, it can hardly afford to have a leader like Maryam opposing the current political discourse with the help of the masses.

However, the question remains: Will the province of Punjab respond to Maryam’s call and will she be able to defy all the odds and beat the invisible forces on the power chessboard? Nawaz Sharif created the anti-establishment narrative in Punjab and to the surprise of many critics, Punjab responded positively. Had Saudi Arabia and other global players not backed the establishment, the outcome of last year’s general elections could have been very different. In any case, Sharif”s PML-N made a huge mistake during the last eight months by not adopting the aggressive narrative of Sharif, and it seemed like for awhile that the PML-N was seeking a deal from the powers that be. However, with Maryam back at the PML-N helm with her firm stance on the narrative of “Respect the Vote,” there are clear indications that the party is ready to take on both the visible and the invisible forces.

Maryam has the ability to pull in crowds and mobilize the PML-N vote bank, but will she be able to turn the tables and make the province of Punjab rise against the current status quo? After all, not long ago Punjab was considered a traditional pro-establishment province. It is clear that Maryam and the PML-N do not want to topple the PTI government right now as they think that the longer it rules the more its inefficiency will become apparent. However, sooner or later, the decisive round of the battle will be fought and the PML-N under the leadership of Maryam Nawaz will be standing against the 71-year rule of the invisible forces and that is not easy at all. There will be round the clock propaganda, character assassination, more cases of corruption, and maybe Maryam will be sent to jail like her father if she is able to launch a massive protest movement in the coming months.

If she can do it, she will, of course, change the political history of the country, but this way of politics demands sacrifices beyond imagination and patience. If only the establishment had realized that hijacking the mandate of the masses and arresting a popular leader like Sharif for dissent would result in more political chaos and divisions in the country perhaps it would have decided not to interfere in political proceedings. It is not too late, though, and if the establishment returns to its constitutional role, leaving political discourse to the politicians and the masses, things can get better.

Otherwise, soon the province of Punjab will become the decisive battlefield for the supremacy of democracy, and Maryam Nawaz leading the next round would mean no more compromises or fear for the PML-N. The clock is ticking and it is in the best interest of the country if the establishment takes a step back and lets the political forces decide the future political discourse of the country.

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