There is no question of Nawaz Sharif resigning on his own
Resigning from office would be considered a sign of weakness and a confession of guilt by the PML-N rank and file which would demoralise them
From a common man’s point of view there is enough in the JIT report to disqualify Nawaz Sharif. The questions is how the government responds to the action if it is taken. The way some of the top spokesmen of the government initially reacted to the proceedings in the Supreme Court showed old habits die hard. The court was told in an aggressive tone that it was playing with fire by passing remarks about the lapses on the part of Nawaz Sharif. Another judge was rebuked for asking whether the money was sent to Qatar laden on camels if not through the banking channels. The remarks revived the memories of hundreds of PML-N rowdies raiding the Supreme Court in November 1997
A more careful section of the party leadership however says it would accept whatever verdict is delivered though it reserved the right to criticise it. Some of the ruling party leaders are already claiming that a conspiracy has been hatched to disqualify Nawaz Sharif and impose the minus-one formula on the party. Others have compared Nawaz Sharif with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Still others blame the powers that be for removing elected prime ministers, declaring that Yusuf Raza Gilani was also a victim, forgetting that Gilani was removed on a petition lodged by none other than the PML-N leadership.
There is no question of Nawaz Sharif resigning on his own. His track record shows he was invariably forced to leave. During the last two months Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly claimed that the real court is the bar of the public opinion thus belittling the expected judgment o the SC. The PML-N loyalists continue to insist that an elected PM can be removed only through polls.
Resigning from office would be considered a sign of weakness and a confession of guilt by the PML-N rank and file which would demoralise them. The PML-N would like to portray Nawaz Sharif as a political martyr in case he is forced to go home by the court.
Will Nawaz Sharif leave peacefully if disqualified by the Supreme Court? The PML-N knows that unlike 1997 the army is siding with the court. What is more a fairly large chunk of the lawyers would not allow a repetition of the storming of the court while the media would also expose any such move. Thus the PML-N would accept the decision under protest.
In case Nawaz Sharif is disqualified he would still remain the de facto party chief. There is none in the party who can claim the allegiance of the party workers or keep the PML-N united. Even if disqualified Nawaz Sharif will remain the eminence grise in the party, deciding who is to replace him as PM, awarding party tickets for the next elections and nominating ministers in case the party wins elections in 2018.
The PTI has no doubt recruited several turncoats from other parties including the PPP. Not all of them are capable of winning their seat as the case of Ashraf Sohna from Okara bears out
The credit for getting Nawaz Sharif disqualified will be claimed by Imran Khan and rightly so. The PPP was opposed to taking the Panama case to the court. It was also opposed to public agitation over the issue. The party leadership wanted to resolve the matter in Parliament through give and take which the PML-N adamantly refused. It was Imran Khan who took the issue to the people and made a reluctant Supreme Court take up the Panama case. The PPP had discredited the JIT when it was formed. Its leaders argued that officials of Grade-19 or Grade-20 could not investigate a sitting prime minister. Imran Khan however supported JIT against the campaign launched by the party in power.
While Imran Khan might succeed in removing the prime minister there is little chance of the PTI winning the elections. Imran Khan’s major slogan is end to corruption. His sole tactic are big public gatherings.
A movement against corruption is no doubt important. What is doubtful is that a campaign revolving solely around corruption can catch the masses’ imagination. The slogan motivates mainly the urban educated middle class which supports merit in opposition to feudal patronage and the culture of cronyism. In rural or semi-rural constituencies the opposition to corruption is not as highly pronounced.
While younger sections of urban population are drawn towards Imran Khan, his fascistic style alienates maturer urbanites. Imran Khan has nothing for the urban poor or the rural population
The PTI chief had proved before the 2013 elections that he was the biggest crowd puller. Imran’s Lahore rally in October 2011 was a stunning performance never witnessed before. Middle class families from Defence, Model Town and about a dozen other upscale residential areas thronged to Minar-e-Pakistan to listen to him .
Next year he gathered sizeable crowds In Quetta and Islamabad, demanding the ‘convicted’ PPP prime minister to resign. In October 2012 thousands rallied on his call to march to South Waziristan to protest against the drone attacks.
But did this translate into enough votes as desired by PTI? The party’s opposition to drone attacks and a hope that it might bring an end to terrorism on account of the TTTP’s soft corner for it helped its campaign in KP. It won 45 general seats out of 99 in the provincial assembly and had to enter into coalition with two other parties to rule the province.
What did Imran Khan mange to get in Punjab, the key province through which a party moves to power at the center? Out of the total 148 directly elected NA seats from Punjab, the PTI got only six!
The average margin of victory on a National Assembly seat in Punjab was 22.7 percent. It was 28.2pc in the 80-odd constituencies of central Punjab, which, barring a couple, all fell for the PML-N which emerged victorious with 117 seats.
The PTI left the local governments in Punjab to the PML-N which had a clean sweep in the final phase of the LG elections in 2015 in Punjab wining the chairman’s slot in 30 district councils.
From 2013 onward there has been little change in PTI’s core programme and style of work.
Eradication of corruption is the only slogan, and holding rallies, sit-ins and protests the only strategy. Imran Khan failed to utilise the NA as a forum for the projection of his views and his image.
The PTI has no doubt recruited several turncoats from other parties including the PPP. Not all of them are capable of winning their seat as the case of Ashraf Sohna from Okara bears out. The party’s performance in Punjab bye-elections was dismal.
Even if all of the newcomers manage to win, it is improbable that the PTI, with six seats, would turn into a party with a hundred seats in the next elections. The PTI would no doubt improve its position and the PML-N would lose some of the ground won but the gap is too big to be filled in the duration of five years.