Maryam Nawaz. Photo: AFP

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and vice-president of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), has been doing exactly what Dr King said. At a time when even the bravest of the politicians in Pakistan choose to remain silent, this lady with the brave heart has openly challenged the oppression by the military establishment and Imran Khan’s campaign to silence his opponents by sending them to jail in fabricated cases. So, as a result, Maryam has been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in a corruption case.

The government led by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its backers in the military establishment had been feeling the heat after Maryam Nawaz gradually built momentum in the province of Punjab. She was fearless, she was bold, and she knew what to say to pull the crowds in for her public gatherings.

In the past three weeks, Maryam held seven rallies in different towns in Punjab and probably even pulled in larger crowds than her father Nawaz Sharif used to do. Her rallies were denied media coverage but she still was able to gather massive support in each of her rallies, in which she ruthlessly exposed the failures of the nexus of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the establishment.

The way the masses responded to her during these seven rallies is unprecedented in Punjab, so much so that in every major town she addressed the rallies into the small hours of the morning. It was probably the first time that a woman had challenged the establishment and its puppet politician, and the masses of Punjab responded positively.

So now after Maryam’s arrest, the establishment has finally silenced one of the most vocal critics of its unsuccessful doctrine of ruling from behind the curtains through Imran Khan. However, the question arises: Is this the end of Maryam or can this regime survive after putting her behind bars? The answer is a resounding no, because her arrest will not bring the economy back on track, nor will it get inflation under control.

The incompetence of the government of Imran Khan and the inability of the military establishment to govern the country is gradually not only sinking the economy but clearly pushing the country to the brink of anarchy and civil war

The incompetence of the government of Imran Khan and the inability of the military establishment to govern the country is gradually not only sinking the economy but clearly pushing the country to the brink of anarchy and civil war. Punjab, the nation’s most populous province, is clearly divided now but hugely tilted in favor of the narrative of Maryam Nawaz and her father.

Imran Khan, the blue-eyed boy of the military establishment, does not enjoy popularity in the towns and villages of Punjab, nor has he strong roots in the province like Sharif’s PML-N. The problem that remains for the establishment is that Maryam and her father Nawaz both are defiant and unwilling to compromise.

The propaganda that Nawaz Sharif is corrupt has been exposed by a leaked video in which the judge who sent Sharif behind bars confessed that he had been forced to convict the ex-PM by the invisible forces. The sloganeering of politicians responsible for all the ills and woes of the country also have failed, as since almost all the leaders of the opposition are behind bars by now, the establishment and its puppet Imran Khan have not been able to steer Pakistan out of economic crisis and diplomatic isolation.

Overseas Pakistanis and minds devoid of critical thinking may still believe the propaganda of the establishment and Imran Khan, but even laymen in Pakistan, especially in Punjab, are openly blaming the establishment for imposing Khan on the country through rigged elections that eventually pushed the country into a political and economic crisis. People in Punjab once were pro-establishment and anyone criticizing the military establishment was considered a traitor, but gone are those days; now from the small tea stalls to the markets and the casual chitchat in the restaurants, people openly blame the establishment for victimizing Sharif and other political foes and for bringing the country to the brink of economic and political meltdown.

The change in the thought process has taken a long time, especially as it has faced strong propaganda by the state that holds the power, but Sharif and his daughter have been able to turn things around. In fact, Maryam should be given most of the credit, as she took on the mighty establishment head-on, and instead of compromising and surrendering she stood like a rock to dismantle the propaganda.

As far as Imran Khan is concerned, he holds no value, as this battle is between Maryam and the mighty establishment, and pawns like Khan are irrelevant. The establishment has seen the writing on the wall that its unquestioned hegemony over state matters is finished and it is only a matter of time before it becomes impossible to keep the masses hypnotized under the influence of its propaganda and false narratives.

However, since no one likes to shun power, it is evident that the establishment will not stop intervening in politics and giving birth to new pawns. This will make political instability even worse, and eventually the uncertainty among investors and the masses will grow. As has happened in other military-dominated regimes such as Egypt, in order to protect its own interests the establishment is pushing the country into a situation where soon the masses will be protesting in the streets against its hegemony and its fascism.

As far as Maryam is concerned, she is making history by trying to turn the tables and win the battle in the favor of democratic forces. But for her, winning or losing the battle does not matter at all, as people who challenge the status quo are always remembered in history like Dr Martin Luther King and Bhagat Singh, a young Indian revolutionary executed by the British in the 1930s.

Maryam has been imprisoned like her father, but her narrative still prevails, and now she will carry the flag of democracy and address public rallies.This has been a nerve-racking battle for Maryam in which she has received scars on her soul, but she has given a ray of hope to the millions of Pakistanis who want their country to be ruled by democratic forces, not by the establishment.

Whether she will snatch power from the establishment still remains to be seen, but she has definitely pushed the establishment on to the back foot, and that itself is a huge achievement. As the famous revolutionary and anti-establishment poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz wrote, “Should your battle be for true love, then fight with the courage of your convictions. If you win there’s cause to exult, and if you lose you will still be the winner in your own esteem.”

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