The ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s long and protracted return to Lahore may not be the most necessary or even the most sensible thing to do, but it makes one thing clear – despite the emerging divisions between the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif still has clout in Punjab. In the days leading up to Saturday, party leaders and members turned out in numbers to accompany the deposed leader to his final destination in Lahore’s Data Darbar.
However, that may be the only thing that is clear. The increasingly confrontational stances taken by the former Prime Minister during his travels, the evidence of the grand conspiracy that allegedly deposed him, the specifics of the “new constitution” pledged during the final speech in Lahore; all of these remain unexplained.
To add to the confusion caused by these vague notions, Nawaz Sharif continued to contradict the PML-N’s stance on Supreme Court verdict. Despite the current Prime Minster, Shahid Kaqan Abbasi, telling reporters in Karachi on the same day that the former Prime Minister had “accepted and respected” the court’s decision, Nawaz Sharif continued to extoll the supremacy of the “court of the people” as opposed to the court of law – and condemning his disqualification as an illegal conspiracy against him in Lahore.
Nawaz Sharif may have painted himself as a defender of democracy during this ceremonial procession across Punjab – but he is actively advocating the clash of people – or a mob – against the rule of law.
It is as if the roles of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif are reversed; it is now the former Prime Minister talking about revolution and alleging grand conspiracies to a charged up crowd of loud music just as Imran Khan did during the Dharna.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) besieged the Parliament however, what Nawaz Sharif is besieging is a little less clear.
But these details do not seem to matter to the thousands of PML-N supporters who came out on the streets to greet their “rightful Prime Minister”; it doesn’t matter to the PML-N leadership either. Just as PTI held rally after rally riding the wave of political opinion during the last three years, Nawaz Sharif also needs a reason – or an excuse – to charge up his voter base and giving the Punjab’s political machinery some practice for the upcoming elections.
Perhaps this is why those other questions remain unanswered – it is the show that matters. It may all come to naught, and in fact it to have no clear end goal is sight, but this journey has done what it was supposed to do – give PML-N supporters something to chant about.