Some would like to call the clouds that engulfed Lahore on Thursday ominous, in truth they were little more than a small spat of monsoon rain and the sun was shining cluelessly before anyone knew it.
But the weather might just become another factor in an already complex situation as the caretaker government stares down the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ahead of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz’s return to the country.
It’s been the same back and forth since the return was announced. The government insists the Sharifs will be arrested at the airport. However, PML-N continues to ignore these promises and makes plans for their grand statement.
With the day of the Sharif, landing is finally here, the Punjab government is stepping on the gas. At least 300 workers of the League were arrested from Lahore including a union council chairman. Section 144 has been imposed in Punjab and the government is looking to completely paralyze the League.
The crackdown of course, is astounding. As many as 300 political workers locked up in a single night is not a joke or a ‘measure,’ but reeks of authoritarianism. So conditioned have we become to such arrests that they do not draw the outrage they should. That it comes from the unassuming Hassan Askari Rizvi, who is an interim to boot, makes it all the more baffling.
Mian Shehbaz Sharif is defiant. He says a rally is their constitutional right and he will lead one to the airport come hell or high water. The high water might just come if it rains again and the roads start to flood. But the younger Sharif will be chugging along at his famed Punjab speed, and we all know he has the high boots to trudge through that rainwater.
At this point, Nawaz Sharif has probably accepted that he will not be surrendering at the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Lahore office at the end of a glorious parade. But will he make a show of handing himself over at the airport or will he resist and take his time getting off the plane? How long is he going to let his followers play this out? And how far are said followers actually going to get?
Nawaz Sharif is landing around five in the evening. That means the city is going to be tense the entire day, and his stand at the airport could last some time.
What happens to Nawaz is anyone’s guess. But it is going to be one hell of a day here in Lahore.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is now actively crying foul too. These elections have become controversial, says Senate’s former chairman Raza Rabbani Khar. All elections, by their very contentious nature, are going to be controversial. But these ones are now rife with accusations of pre-poll rigging and undue influences. The accusers are the two largest parties from the country’s last parliament. That at least should merit something.
It has been pointed out before, but it is worth saying again, the return is on a Friday the 13th. It’s been a saga of Fridays for Nawaz Sharif until now but before today it has been the courts setting the dates. This time, it’s Nawaz making the call.