In addition to his innate reserves of charisma, the surviving organization of his party, the electorate’s general disgust with all things Musharraf, and having a real, live lion show up to greet him at the airport—and despite his reputed legacy as a corrupt politico who once had his ruffians storm the Supreme Court, the same institution for which he now professes such a tender regard--Sharif has Saudi good will and possibly Saudi money to spread around in the service of his campaign.
Sharif filed papers to run for a parliamentary seat—indicating that his party will not boycott the elections (hint of a deal there) and triggering a flood of speculation in the Pakistani press that PML-Q will be decimated by a surge of support for Sharif and Chaudhry will fade into irrelevance.
So, unless Musharraf wanted to shatter his base of support in Pakistan’s most important province, gut the political party that provides him with his only parliamentary cover, and, in essence, destroy his tenuous hold on power while he’s attempting a difficult transition to a civilian presidency, he’s not going to let Nawaz Sharif return without a deal, even if Saudi Arabia and the United States are wagging disapproving fingers at him.
And it’s not inconceivable that Musharaff would sacrifice Chaudhry for the sake of a deal with Sharif.
While trolling the Pakistan blogs, I came across this gem:
Chathas, Wattoes, and Tawanas oh my!
While a lota is technically an urn used to clean oneself after going to the loo in South Asia, the term has been used to describe opportunistic politicians who have no qualms in switching sides whenever they feel that the tide is turning.
More details—including a cautionary tale for people who find a coffeemaker in their motel bathroom--can be found here.
The other terms in the jeremiad refer to influential families, landlords, and feudal lords (presumably hyperbole) who may find that being cosseted by Musharraf for the last few years is a political black mark now that Sharif is back and getting ready to call the shots.
Sufism is at the heart of Punjab’s cultural identity and Sharif visited the tomb no doubt to play up his Punjab roots but also to place some distance between himself and Saudi Arabia, which considers itself the arbiter of Islamic orthodoxy and looks askance at Sufism.
Sharif outlined his stance on the elections in an interview on Monday.
He’s being rather equivocal on the issue of the boycott, more so than the Western press—which usually describes him as “calling for a boycott”--reports.
LAHORE: Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said Monday that the opposition should use the option of boycotting the general elections in case a level playing field is not provided to it in the electioneering process. He was addressing a press conference at his Model Town residence here on Monday.
Former Punjab chief minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and PML-N leader Saranjam Khan were also present.Nawaz Sharif said the opposition do not want to indulge in any confrontation or to boycott the polls, but it will be left with no other option if it is pushed to the wall.
“We believe in reconciliation and Pakistan’s welfare, not in confrontation; the people at the helm of affairs need to understand the feelings of the people and act according to their aspirations to remove emergency and restore the rule of law in the country,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif said that he would try to convince all the opposition parties to boycott the upcoming general elections. [emph. added]
It’s clear that Sharif wants to use the threat of a widespread boycott of the parliamentary elections by his party and Bhutto’s to force Musharraf to lift the State of Emergency.
Winning such a confrontation would give Sharif considerable momentum going into the poll, as well as making it more difficult for Musharraf to pursue whatever skullduggery he might consider in order to dilute Sharif’s success in the elections and play off a weakened PML-N against Bhutto's PPP as a coalition partner.
My prognosis: ain’t gonna happen.
At least the part about re-opening the case of Musharraf’s presidential election. Musharraf is never going to lift the State of Emergency if Sharif’s threat is real, and I wonder if the popular or international support would be there either.
That’s exactly the kind of destructive judicial vendetta that has poisoned Pakistan’s politics for the last two decades.
The judiciary might be reinstated, but stripping Musharraf of his presidency and putting him on trial should be short-circuited by talk (encouraged by the U.S., the Saudis, and Pakistan’s army and already tacitly agreed by Sharif and Bhutto) of national reconciliation.
If Sharif plays the electoral endgame with finesse, emerges as the recognized power broker, reneges on whatever understanding he had with Musharraf, gains the upper hand over Musharraf, and wins the support of the army, the Saudis, and the United States as Our Man in Pakistan—no slam dunk—then maybe Musharraf goes.
We’ll see how things play out.