PM Nawaz was compelled to do this U-Turn on the floor of the Parliament because his assumption of Army intervention quickly succeeding into browbeating Imran Khan back fired and sharp criticism from other political allies like PPP, JI and media made him realize that his chess move has further isolated him. But by doing this flip flop Nawaz has seriously jeopardized Armed Forces position forcing them now to do something to save his politics and blunders. But how will Armed Forces do it without alienating the other side and its own officer corps? This is why Nawaz’s flip flop was very selfish.
PM Nawaz felt cornered after Lahore Police was compelled to register FIR for Model Town Murders. Though till now Punjab Police is trying to water down the FIR by playing with its various sections but somehow in Sharif family’s mind this FIR is a huge red herring. Requesting Military Chief to intervene to help was to end the deadlock, reduce risks inherent for the family and find ways to defeat demands for Prime Minister’s resignation.
The central assumption was that military will not only have a strong influence upon Dr. Qadri but also Imran Khan. This fatal assumption existed because in its under-siege mentality PMLN leadership has become a victim of their own propaganda and disinformation. We continuously hear that people are even being paid for systematic disinformation and changing public debate. But the Risks of this media investment strategy are that PMLN fails to read and grasp the nature and direction of political change. They assume that once military comes in and shows its strong dislike or muscle to Imran Khan and PTI then all the protests will just disappear and Cinderella and her Prince Handsome will live happily ever after. This is flawed.
There are elements of truth in PMLN’s calculation (hinted several times by PMLN leaders and even PM during his meeting with media) that Military Establishment may have played a role in orchestrating these protests. But even if it is true this political movement has assumed its own dynamics and unlike Dr. Qadri who commands a group of Sunni Sufis and Barelvis following who listen to him, Imran Khan represents a conglomeration of political and civic interests from urban middle classes who question all his decisions so it is not possible for Imran Khan to suddenly make decisions that can not be sold to this motely urban middle class intelligentsia.
The assumption of PMLN and many in the media was (see their tweets & comments and discussions last night) that Imran will be demolished after one hearing with the military chief. But Imran’s polite but defiant statement after 1am proved that wrong and immediately the emergent reality made Nawaz totally isolated and cornered. Because Nawaz had not neither consulted his allies nor his party or cabinet before involving military and tongues of his allies – PPP & JI – were lashing. And due to Imran Khan’s defiant response the chess move had back-fired throwing PM fate onto the military’s judgment. Nawaz should have remained silent or could have at least spoken diplomatically the way Nisar did – by making it a generalized PTI demand – but he was so guilty and under pressure that he lied plainly to restore his position. The assumption once again is that fierce disinformation and rhetoric by friendly or bought over sections of media will help create enough confusion to wriggle out of this fiasco or the ISPR can be forced to say something that shifts the blame to Imran or Qadri duo. But the damage has been done; There is a massive circumstantial evidence of the last 14-15 hours that proves beyond doubt that this initiative came from PM Nawaz – and was not necessarily an insincere initiative however flawed its assumptions were.
Now Military has been placed in a very awkward position. If they try to rescue Nawaz from his lies then they risk alienating the crowds on the streets and also the rank and file of the military officers who will read this as overt politics by the Chief and is generals in favor of Nawaz Sharif. The best option for the military will be to keep their mouth shut and assess how to mediate and what options exist for a solution without blaming either side. Can Shahbaz resignation and the credible Election Audit Mechanism being offered by Nawaz be given strong genuine military supervision for all constituencies wherever strong suspicions exist of electoral fraud and rigging. Statistical models can be developed that can prove organized rigging. The only goal can be to save PM Nawaz from a possible resignation. (I don’t support Nawaz’s resignation).