TORONTO: It looks surreal, to say the least. For the first time since the days of Z.A. Bhutto and Ziaul Haq, a Pakistani politician, no matter himself an army plant, is challenging the overwhelming authority of Army and making right noises about the supremacy of civilians and parliament in politics.

True, he stands disqualified after a marathon corruption case heard by the Supreme Court. True, a large number of people believe that he and his family has ill-gotten wealth. True, most of the Pakistanis believe that SC heard him fair and square in a widely regarded fair trial. True that in earlier battles with army he always sided with the military against politicians and finally there is a possibility that Sharif and his PML-N are turning a corruption conviction into a grandiose and holy war between the people and army. But it is also fair to lay the credit where it is due.

No politician including Benazir Bhutto challenged the military power like Sharif is doing nowadays. His address to his party’s general council in Islamabad on Sunday carried tone, words and tenor that no politician, human rights activist or journalist could dare utter in years. In his speeches he is hinting at the conspiracy to oust him had its roots in his foreign policy choices vis-à-vis India and the US. And the generals collectively listened just a few miles away at a ‘special Corps Commanders conference’ in Rawalpindi. Military has controlled directly and indirectly politics and economy of the country for the last 70 years. It has its tentacles not only in politics and finance but in all spheres of civilian life – media, lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists and even sportspersons. Sure, Nawaz knows this. But still he came back to face courts from London and get himself elected from his party which so far is largely intact. These are no less than miracles according to Pakistani political standards and norms.

However, he is alone. All other political parties, as expected, are standing by the military side and busy condemning him. Apart from one odd voice here and there, the media, on the whims of military is busy damning him and his party. The opposition is waiting for his fall with a thud. They point out that in battles of their own he sided with military. Since he is caged, they smell blood, the mainstay of military’s power to control the politicians. Also they are suspicious that there is no guarantee he would stay the course. What he makes a deal with military leaving them in the lurch? What if he suddenly cowers down? What if he goes back in exile again? So a game of wait and see is going on in the minds of those who are standing on the sidelines before jumping into the fray.

By the day it is becoming clearer that his return from exile might not be the result of an understanding with the military after all. However, the night is young and the battle has barely started. Everyone is however is asking a million dollar question. From where Sharif is drawing his strength? There are no Saudis on the horizon and military controlled media is pointing towards the usual suspects – India and the US.

Whoever is backing Sharif is fast becoming immaterial. The fact of the matter is he is jumped into the arena when it mattered. And if he continues his fight and lead it in a meaningful way, he is certain to get the support of the people and the next elections would fall into his lap like a ripe mango. The opposition parties know it so a rush to drawing board and a decision to join him or ditch him has to come faster. - Ends