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Nawaz is done. Even if he doesn't know this himself

Published : Nov 20, 2017, 12:13 am IST
Updated : Nov 20, 2017, 12:13 am IST

Nawaz is done. Maybe he doesn’t know it yet, but we don’t have to pretend he knows what he’s doing. His problem is the court.

Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Photo: AP)
 Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Photo: AP)

In another week of numbing stupidity and vileness, maybe it’s time to stop pretending that there isn’t a solution: a straight fight between Shahbaz and Imran in an August election. May the better — least worst? — man win and may we all be allowed to get back to our miserableish lives in this miserableish land. Because this is just exhausting.

Nawaz is done. Maybe he doesn’t know it yet, but we don’t have to pretend he knows what he’s doing. His problem is the court.

He’s already disqualified and he’s on track to be convicted. There’s only one way to reverse the disqualification: strip Article 62(1)(f) out of the Constitution, the honest and trustworthy business.

To do that, Nawaz’s only shot is after half the Senate is changed in March. (Senate elections may be held earlier by the provincial assemblies, possibly as early as Jan).

OK, great. But the Senate is equally divided between the four provinces and N-League only dominates one, Punjab, and is the lead player in another, Balochistan.

To change the Constitution, you need a separate two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament. There’s no way that Nawaz is getting that in the Senate.

Let’s play along. Nawaz has the Constitution amended for himself. The amendment will immediately be challenged in the Supreme Court.

The same Supreme Court that in the 21st Amendment/military courts case gave itself the right to decide if constitutional amendments are constitutional.

The same court in which the current CJP has had to recuse himself from the Nawaz case and the next two CJPs were part of the five-member bench that disqualified Nawaz. Who are we kidding?

But let’s keep playing along. Nawaz gets the Constitution amended for himself and the amendment survives the court’s scrutiny.

There’s then the matter of the accountability trial and an actual conviction. For the sake of fantasy, assume he won’t be convicted. That still leaves him with the disqualification problem.

For the sake of reality, let’s assume he’s convicted. Worst case scenario: he’s convicted and sent to jail. That means the PML-N fighting the election with Nawaz in jail; meaning he’ll have to nominate someone else as the PM candidate.

Think about what it would mean if the candidate isn’t Shahbaz.

After Nawaz, there’s no one in the party with a profile like Shahbaz. So Shahbaz is going to campaign on behalf of a Nawaz surrogate to whom Nawaz will be junior if N-League wins?

Yeah, that would work. (Hold on if you’re thinking Maryam or Hamza.) Best case scenario for Nawaz in the accountability trial: he’s convicted but not sent to jail or something exotic like a presidential pardon comes to his rescue.

That still leaves every returning officer rejecting his nomination papers because of the conviction. A rejection Nawaz can appeal all the way to the — Supreme Court. Uh-oh.

(If you’re thinking Nawaz may find a returning officer to accept his nomination papers, any of his opponents can challenge his nomination — a challenge that will eventually end up in the Supreme Court. Uh-uh.) So what the hell are we doing? Nawaz is done.

Let’s skip out of the legal realm and get political a bit. Nawaz’s problem is himself. A fourth-term Nawaz will try something different and succeed at that something different after three unsuccessful stints? And immediately after his third failure? You may as well write to Santa for a pot of gold.

Aha, but there’s Maryam. She’s ambitious; she has Nawaz’s support; the mother, Kulsum, is a major booster; a mother’s wish from the sickbed is hard for a family to deny; and the PML-N is a party of lemmings.

All well and good, but only within the family soap opera.

Maryam has never held a job. She’s had one by-election campaign in the safest of seats. In nine months, she’ll have to learn how to assemble a national roster of candidates, find her campaign feet, and then prepare to be sworn in as a first-time MNA headed straight for the PM House.

That’s fantastically improbable. And while it may be worth the bet for Nawaz and Maryam, how many winning candidates are going to be willing to go along for that ride?

Oh, but there’s Hamza. Hamza who? He may have handled the party for his father and uncle for a few years, but that’s only because they detest their partymen and rather someone else do the dirty work. And even if Hamza has party experience that Maryam doesn’t, he has zero national profile. Going into an election with a behind-the-scenes player known to the candidates but unknown to the average voter is political suicide.

Slice it, dice it, cut it any way you like, you’re still left with: Nawaz is done, Maryam isn’t ready, Hamza is a nobody and Shahbaz is — ready.

The PML-N has to know that this endless crisis has hurt them. You don’t need to know anything about politics or Pakistan to know that the convulsions will have cooled support for the party.

And while the PTI may not have gained — yet — the PML-N falling back has set up a nasty and fierce election. It may be our ugliest yet, barring perhaps ’77. If Nawaz stays ringside, it could be the nastiest ever. The solution is obvious: a straight fight between Shahbaz and Imran in an August election.

Nawaz is done. Let him be an éminence grise or whatever catches his fancy. Just get out of the electoral way already and end this exhaustion for all of us.

By arrangement with Dawn

Tags: nawaz sharif, pakistan supreme court