Supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party gathered to start an anti-government march in Karachi on Sunday. Thousands of supporters of the ultra-religious party are en route to Islamabad, the capital, farther north. Photo: AFP / Qaiser Khan / NurPhoto

The political crisis in Pakistan has finally exploded. The Long March of Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman backed by the joint opposition is pulling massive crowds.

This march to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan has entered the province of Punjab, which is considered the political fort of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister of Pakistan.

Sharif is in the hospital fighting for his life after being found critically ill under the custody of the National Accountability Bureau. Sharif’s illness seems to be the final nail in the coffin of the invisible forces and the government of Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

At the moment, not only do the establishment and the PTI government have to face the massive protest movement of Fazal. Their even bigger challenge is somehow to send Sharif out of the country so that, in case something happens to him, both the establishment and the current government can save face by saying that he was getting treatment from abroad.

The rigged political discourse and the denial of a Sharif electoral victory through pre-poll and post-poll rigging eventually caused anti-establishment sentiments to boil up from the province of Punjab.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz’ defiant stance, her ability to take on the establishment and the government of Imran Khan single-handedly, not only saved the day for Sharif but it helped in building a strong pro-democratic narrative in Punjab.

So Sharif – lying in a hospital room fighting against all the odds, even against the threat of death – is courageously refusing to accept any deal from the establishment. Until now he has refused every single offer to send him abroad.

The powerful establishment has approached his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif and other family members to convince Nawaz Sharif and Maryam to go abroad but Sharif is not ready. The establishment and Khan’s government have no option but to hope for the wellbeing of Sharif.

Fazal’s long march will not change the current status quo, as Fazal can be managed by the establishment, but Fazal has already achieved the desired results. His pressure has created a space for him and other opposition members to come back to the power chessboard.

The establishment in Pakistan designed a doctrine according to which it wished to rule the country indirectly with the help of Imran Khan’s PTI, leaving  all the major political players out of the picture.

However, Sharif first busted this doctrine by coming back to Pakistan last year and presenting himself and Maryam for arrest, even knowing the intentions of the invisible forces.

The question remains: what went wrong with the powerful establishment which never was defeated or put to the verge of defeat on the power chessboard before?

First, the establishment placed the wrong bet on Khan, thinking that his popularity among the segment of youth would be enough for smooth sailing. Khan never was politician material. He lacks the skills to steer Pakistan out of the self-inflicted political and financial crisis.

He remains the narcissist whose single aim in life remains praising himself and trying to paint every political opponent as corrupt and a threat to the country. It was always expected that Khan, after being brought to power by the establishment, would only focus on victimizing his political opponents.

Khan did not disappoint his critics and in only 14 months of his rule not only has he pushed the country into a grave political crisis but his inability to drive the country out of financial turmoil has given strength to the democratic supremacy narrative of Sharif.

On the part of invisible forces, the second mistake was to undermine the ability of Sharif and Maryam to resist against all the odds. When the establishment decided to throw Sharif out of politics, Sharif instead of accepting it as fate or trying to mend fences with the establishment decided to fight back.

Many even in Sharif’s own party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz ( PMLN) never believed that Sharif would ever be able to turn the tables against the mighty establishment.

However, first Sharif surprised everyone by defying all the odds and paying the price of taking a stand against the invisible forces, and then Maryam gave a new lease of life to the PMLN by adopting an unprecedented stance.

Maryam put everything at stake to somehow fight for her jailed father and to keep her party intact. No one including the establishment had an iota of an idea that both Sharif and Maryam would put up such a resilient fight to turn the tables in their favor.

The deteriorating economy, which directly impacted the common masses in the form of inflation and price hikes in utility bills and everyday commodities, also played a crucial role in giving Sharif the edge in this battle.

Sharif was never famous outside Punjab for his anti-establishment stance but right now when he is hospitalized and fighting with his illness he has become the symbol of democratic supremacy across the country.

The invisible forces were not able to understand the changing political and social fabrics of the modern arena, with technological advancement having made the world a global village – and where it is almost impossible to keep hegemony intact through one-sided propaganda.

Maryam played it smartly. She utilized the social media and digital platforms effectively to counter the narrative of the deep state and the controlled mainstream media.

So right now the establishment has its fingers crossed and its shrewd operators will be praying that Sharif will bow down to the pressure of his family and will not further risk his life.

Sharif’s exit at this time with his daughter would give the establishment breathing space and it could replace Khan in the future through an in-house change in the parliament to somehow console the opposition.

Eventually, the fact remains that it is Sharif, not the establishment, who will decide the fate of the politics of the near future in the country.

Whether Sharif leaves or stays will decide the future of his daughter and of his party politics in the country, but irrespective of what he decides he along with Maryam has proven a point that no one – not even the mighty establishment – is invincible.

The establishment has ruled this country directly or indirectly through the fear factor as it had all the resources and power to dislodge the elected governments and to create political heroes and villains on its own.

The fear of getting thrown out of the power chessboard forced the major political players to always remain in the good books of the establishment by taking dictation.

However, both Sharif and Maryam have proved that if you have the nerve and courage to take on the odds, even the establishment cannot throw you out of the power chessboard.

This is the beginning of the new chapter in the political history of Pakistan and this itself is the huge victory of the pro-democratic forces in the country. Neither the Fazal long march nor the change of faces on the power chessboard matters at all as Sharif has already won the ideological battle of democratic supremacy.

Ideologies are not dependent on individuals. In the future, his daughter Maryam or someone other will carry on the flag of democratic supremacy battle backed by the millions of pro-democratic voters who now have realized that the only way to progress is the democracy and the protection of civil liberties granted by the constitution of the country.

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