“Get me if you can,” was the one-line message of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s unnecessarily lengthy speech that he delivered during the first sitting of another National Assembly session Wednesday evening. He delivered the said speech exactly a day after losing the most populous province of Pakistan, i.e., Punjab, to his opponents due to a Supreme Court decision. Thanks to this decision, he would increasingly begin to look more like the “mayor of Islamabad” rather than a hands-on Chief Executive of the country of more than 220 million. Yet he tried hard not to look defeated or overwhelmed.

While acting brave he could, however, not stop himself from building on the narrative that his one and only rival, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, was still being treated as the most favourite ‘darling’ of some permanent institutions of our state. And the superior courts don’t hesitate to travel extra miles, allegedly to ‘please’ him.

To prove his point, he kept recalling incident after incident that to him relentlessly established “preferred treatment” of Imran Khan by multiple institutions of our state, since at least 2014. Many stories that he told to drum his narrative were indeed worth considering. But he failed to convince most of us that how could he live up to his reputation of being a “doer and deliverer”, if Imran Khan was still being pampered by the most powerful quarters of our state.

Shehbaz Sharif also behaved almost oblivious to the reality that after his taking over as the Prime Minister in the late night of April this year, he and his government were constantly being perceived as harbingers of ‘bad news’ for the mass of our people. After a gap of many years, long hours of power cuts had returned as if with vengeance. As if those were not enough the eleven-party government replacing Imran Khan had also been pushed to opt for relentless increase of petroleum and electricity prices.

You surely need to be blinded with incurable bias for exclusively holding Shehbaz Sharif and the government led by him for turning things gloomy for an overwhelming number of our people. Yes, for many decades, the state of Pakistan remained dependent on foreign aid and loans, doled out by various powerful and rich countries of the world to keep us in their “camp.” We failed to develop the culture of austerity and self-sufficiency and kept ignoring the task of appropriately taxing the super rich of this country and Imran Khan’s government didn’t prove an exception in the given context as well.

Yet the honest appreciation of the so-called ‘big picture’ can’t deny the reality that an average person anywhere in the world weighs things with here-and-now realities that he or she deals with in everyday living. For the same reason, the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis have to keep comparing their incomes and expenditures of these days with the scene that prevailed until April 9, 2022. And here the Shehbaz government certainly appears as if adding to their miseries, nonstop and almost recklessly.

Since being removed from the Prime Minister’s Office, Imran Khan continues to vigorously promote the narrative that the sole superpower of these days, USA, never felt comfortable with his dream of making Pakistan a really “sovereign country.” After failing in taming him, Washington felt forced to consult its playbook for ‘regime change’ and developed and executed the idea of removing him through the vote of confidence, put in the national assembly of Pakistan. The whole gang of “compulsively corrupt politicians, already facing grave charges of massive corruption” gleefully agreed to act like “delivering tools.”

Imran Khan also keeps insisting that on his own he was still capable of defeating the alleged American conspiracy launched against him. But he felt weak and cheated when some powerful elements from within our extremely powerful deep state also decided to act like willful ‘collaborators’ of the scheme of getting him.

The combined wisdom of the 11-party government miserably failed to spin an equally vigorous story to counter Imran Khan’s narrative. The economic gloom, associated with the same government, has doubly crippled it rather. Due to the same gloom, Shehbaz Sharif is no more able to project himself like a ‘victim’ of another set of insidious conspiracies. Therefore, the pomp and fury he employed for transmitting the message that he was here to stay come what may sounded hollow even to his ardent supporters.

 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had no story to induce hope and convince people that during the remaining term of his government, he would pursue a well-thought-out strategy to push Pakistan back on the road to political stability, eventually helping Pakistan to also bounce back in concrete economic terms.

Even in private and “strictly off the record” meetings, key ministers dealing with economic matters these days are also not able to commit any strategy for pulling Pakistan out of the deep gloom. They rather look helpless and overwhelmed while dealing with absolute chaos and confusion.

 

Meanwhile, Imran Khan is firmly sticking to his demand for fresh elections. He also believes that his return to power with the comfortable majority would help him to address and resolve all the accumulated problems of Pakistan. No doubt, like Shehbaz Sharif he also sounds building hopes without committing any strategy. Yet, huge sections of our society are willing to trust him, primarily due to the rage that the government replacing Imran Khan had provoked by its “tough but unpopular” decisions.

 

Being extremely experienced politicians Shehbaz Sharif and his colleagues need no tutor to discover that immediate elections would seriously demolish their vote bank. The party led by the Prime Minister, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), had already suffered the blowback of this government’s policies during recently held by-elections for 20 seats of the Punjab Assembly. Even in Lahore, considered an ``unconquerable base and citadel’ of the PML-N since the early 1990s, the party had lost 3 out of the 4 contested seats.

The trend dominating the political landscape these days clearly projects none but one option for Shehbaz Sharif and his party: instead of appearing as if sticking to power, by all means, the 11-party government should resign and start preparing for fresh elections. I am simply not able to fathom what has made Shehbaz Sharif, almost blind, to what seems clearly written on the wall.