Shahbaz Sharif, opposition leader and brother of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, speaks during a press conference in Lahore on November 14, 2019. Photo: AFP / Arif Ali

Change is the only constant in the world, whereas stagnation leads to the death of a society. Ever since 2014 when a sit-in led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was held against the elected government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the country has been going through a period of stagnation, where from the economy to the political discourse and from society to constitution, every single domain has been hit badly in the war between Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment.

The way Sharif was humiliated and disqualified through hasty and ill-considered judicial proceedings is part of history now, and the blatant rigging of the ballot in the 2018 elections is an open secret to those who know the dynamics of the political proceedings in Pakistan, a bid to undermine Sharif and launch Imran Khan as his alternative. What the invisible forces did to the country is visible in every sphere and domain of life.

The current PTI regime has not only worsened the economic situation but has also failed to fill the vacuum created by the disqualification of Sharif.

In the process, the judiciary and institutions like the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) lost their credibility as after the confession of Justice Arshad Malik that he convicted Sharif under pressure from the invisible forces exposed the nexus of the accountability courts and the invisible forces to throw an elected prime minister out of politics and the narrative of corruption against the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party.

PTI rose to power on an artificial bubble that was bound to burst someday. It seems that day is approaching very fast, as the PTI government is finding it hard to maintain its majority in the National Assembly.

One of PTI’s allies, the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP Mengal), has announced the withdrawal of its support in the National Assembly, while the ruling party’s other ally, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), has also been showing concerns about the PTI’s governance.

Normally when parties like PML-Q start raising objections about their allies, it means that the winds are blowing against the government in power. However, since the hybrid regime led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is backed by the bigwigs of the establishment, it means that even those bigwigs are not feeling good about the performance of PTI and Khan.

Rising inflation and the inability to control the Covid-19 pandemic had already weakened the PTI government. If this was not enough, a presidential reference filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, one of the most credible judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, has humiliated both the government and its backers.

Isa, who was targeted by vague charges of hiding the assets of his spouse and children, has outsmarted the government in the court. On Thursday, Isa’s wife through a video link not only presented the money trail of each of her assets and financial transactions, but she also revealed how the family of the honest judge had been chased and mentally tortured by government agencies.

From revealing her sources of income through documented financial transactions and taxpayer records among other evidence, Isa’s wife virtually buried the government’s case against the judge. It is now left to the honorable judges of the court whether they want to take the path of the late chief justice Muhammad Munir and former chief justice Saqib Nisar or they want to rewrite the judicial history of the country.

Any elected government with any sense of ethics would have not only withdrawn the case against Isa after the money trail submitted by his wife, but Khan, who presents himself as a man without any record of corruption, should have submitted the money trail of his own offshore companies and the sources of funding for the 23 undisclosed accounts in the foreign funding case that was lodged by one of the founding members of the PTI, Akbar S Babar.

Anyone who knows Isa could have told that the government had messed with the wrong person. Perhaps the government and its backers need to find out who misled them to go against Isa on the basis of a vague charge sheet and failed to advise them properly that he was not one who would surrender to any pressure.

This case now will bring many bigwigs under scrutiny, as Isa’s track record shows that for him integrity is everything and he can revive that only by not only getting a clean chit but also by exposing the conspiracy against him.

Meanwhile, the India-China conflict and the inability of the PTI government to take a clear position on it has not only created problems for its backers but Beijing too seems unimpressed by Islamabad’s vague response.

Last Saturday, Lijian Zhao, spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, telephoned Pakistani opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif to inquire about his health and offered him treatment after he tested positive for Covid-19. This is a sign that China has thrown its weight behind the PML-N.

Likewise, the Saudi monarchs are finding it difficult to back the PTI regime any further, as in the US presidential election race the Democratic challenger Joe Biden is clearly ahead of Donald Trump, and if Biden assumes office next year the Jamal Khashoggi murder alone will bring some harsh restrictions from the Democrats. That will make it more difficult for the Saudi monarchs to interfere in Pakistani politics, as with a Democratic president in Washington, their own survival will be their first priority.

So right now the main Pakistani opposition parties will be eyeing geopolitical developments like the rise of China changing the US-led unipolar world order, and the US presidential election. Not to forget that Nawaz Sharif enjoys a cordial relationship with the Clinton family, and if Biden wins in November it will not be difficult for Sharif to win the sympathies of Washington.

Like it or not, Washington’s influence in Pakistani politics is a reality, and unlike Beijing, the US controls the strings of the political discourse in Pakistan. So for Sharif, the Isa case and the US presidential elections are decisive factors.

The Punjab electoral belt, a crucial factor in determining the outcome of Pakistan’s general elections, still belongs to Sharif. Despite the fact that in his absence and after wasting a courageous woman like Maryam Nawaz, his party under his brother Shahbaz’ leadership has not been an effective opposition and took a U-turn from the narrative of civilian supremacy, the majority of the Punjab electorate still want to vote for Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam.

This raises a question on the selection of Khan by the invisible forces, as not in the recent history of the country has a politician been so openly supported by the establishment, and yet Khan has not been able to damage Sharif’s electoral fort. In fact through his inability to govern, Khan has not only kept Sharif relevant but the entire press section that was part of the engineering and manipulation that brought him to power has unconsciously helped Sharif by criticizing him all the time.

It is only common sense to recognize that a politician needs relevance, and the more the controlled press and the cabinet focused on Sharif the more relevant he became. The final nail in the coffin perhaps is the presidential reference against Isa that is becoming embarrassing for both the government and its backers.

Many in the ranks of PTI are uncertain about the future of the party and confess the failure of their leadership in private conversations. It is only a matter of time before the winds blowing against the current government will become a storm and change the entire political horizon of the country.

Let us hope that this time, if the opposition parties get a chance to govern the country, they will bring reforms to strengthen democratic principles both in the country and in their own cadres. 

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.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.