The three most significant stakeholders in the current scenario are the PTI, PML-N and the establishment. Whoever amongst them grabs maximum power in the 2023 elections will hold it for a longer time than the rest, because these elections are not just any elections but a turning point in the future history of Pakistan, the Armageddon. Small stakeholders like PPP, JUI, MQM, PML-Q and JI are likely to remain where they are; just pawns with occasional luxuries.
Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif both are preparing for the last reigns of their life because both are likely to be where General Musharraf is right now: devoid of energy by 2028. The establishment too has long held power and has kept it all to itself. For the first time, it is faced with a situation where it is now compelled to think for the country as a whole, apart from only enjoying power, given the unceasing downfall of the economy. It now seems to have realised that with a shrunken economy, it has to remain in subservience to powerful states of the world and accede to their demands, ultimately shrinking the establishment’s own power – apart from the country’s.
On one hand, it is surrounded by a mixture of friends and foes to deal with in the form of TTP, TLP, Afghan Taliban, Daesh, the influence of China and the US, and the latter’s disengagement with our neighbour Afghanistan. On the other hand, due to the emergence of social media, which is a tool possessed by every man from a watchman to the prime minister, the establishment also must cope with the pressure groups which have emerged as unintended consequences of their policies. The most notable unintended consequences are the PTM and the survivors of the APS incident, including the resentment growing in the civil society for ever-growing lawlessness in the country. Keeping Ali Wazir in jail is easy, but the resentment that grows in the people who identify themselves with the victim again might yield unpredictable consequences in the future. The TLP’s zestful resistance while their leader was in jail and the government’s surrender in the form of one agreement after another is a classic testament to this reality.
Each entity has its cards and each is playing them vigorously, if not very efficiently. Therefore, none of them is leaving the stadium of politics without a fight. Most recently, by having passed a multitude of bills in the joint session of Parliament and having paved the way for EVM machines, the PTI has stylishly played its cards – rendering the opposition looking very weak in the wake of circumstances. Although EVM machines and inclusion of overseas Pakistanis in the election process are being seen as a tool for PTI to ensure its victory in the 2023 elections, this tool may very well end up benefiting someone else, something to which Asif Ali Zardari also hinted in his statement to media. Imran Khan is au courant of this possibility but as he says, he is a sportsman and is ready for the upshot. This is what separates Khan from both Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, that all this is just a game for him, he knows exactly what he wants in whatever possible manner, moral or immoral, and goes for it no matter what the consequences. And this aspect of him is what keeps the establishment as well as opposition on its toes.
Nawaz Sharif has yet to play his final cards after having played some of them by launching a resistance against the establishment. The primary reason for that is that he is well aware as to how Imran Khan is incapable of putting the country back on the normal track after all his experiments have failed. Add to that the lack of experience in his leadership and the sole reliance on blackmailing the establishment; even going as far as angering them by delaying the notification of an important position like the DG ISI.
Right now, the PML-N is merely killing time just like in cricket – a team almost becomes sure that their opposition has too less balls left to attain the target. As they say, an honest enemy is better than a false friend. Nawaz Sharif is also aware that there is but little chance that the establishment will continue to give power to PTI and PPP, as they both have terribly failed in their recent stints in running the country as compared to PML-N – ultimately bringing shame to the establishment itself for its choice.
The establishment has also yet to play its cards fully, as currently it seems to be acquainted with both the government as well as the opposition. It is neither being a too good friend of the government nor the worst enemy of the opposition, despite the latter’s outspoken criticism against it. Doing the latter might very well lead it to a blind alley and that is why the establishment is moving with extreme care. The reason for this care is the recent unveiling of the establishment’s profound role in running the country due to the sheer failure of PTI and the revelation of the fact that ruling parties have but little role in the management of the country as a whole. The establishment, like the American CIA, does not want the people to think that they are responsible for things that happen – even though they are.
Indeed, heavy is the head that wears the crown and that heaviness is becoming more and more dense.
The likely outcome of this whole game is either going to be catastrophic for Pakistan or a magnificent one, with a redistribution of powers paving way for a progressive Pakistan. It is not that the establishment is expected to abandon its power and give it all to politicians, but we certainly are in dire need of a realignment of power. Giving all the power to politicians at once will also have devastating effects on Pakistan as our Prime Ministers are not Jacinda Arden and Justin Trudeau – they are an establishment in themselves. That is exactly why establishment finds it so hard to diminish them permanently.
We, the people, need a liveable Pakistan. Otherwise we will keep facing one catastrophe after another in the form of a faltering economy, suicide blasts, decamping of an international cricket team, genocide of minorities in Balochistan and in Pakistan as a whole. Imagine the image we are giving to the world in the back of the everyday happenings. And then all the efforts of showing Pakistan as a peaceful country go in vain. Who would risk coming to Pakistan when they see a mob killing policemen and the state surrendering before them and going as far as pardoning all the culprits in an instance? And all this, in the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)! What could be a bigger blasphemy than this?
Before the coming Armageddon in 2023, the establishment ought to revisit its vantage point and realign powers in a way that the best of people come into the administration, but without their interference. It must be a situation where the judges do their work without the fear of being physically harmed by a party or being influenced by powerful entities, where the police is at least equipped to prosecute the criminals rather than being killed on streets with no consequences to culprits. The establishment must give the politician his due power without befriending one for their own benefit or convenience. In short, just a liveable Pakistan.
If the establishment consistently ignores this facet of the image of Pakistan as a whole and keeps emphasising its own image of being one of the best security apparatuses in the world, then God help Pakistan. There will be more TTPs, TLPs, PTMs and PTIs. And there will be nothing left for the establishment to establish itself upon – at least in terms of the common people of Pakistan.