By 2008 both the PML-N and PPP had forgotten that they had signed the Charter of Democracy binding them to take a number of important measures and forbidding them from playing into the establishment’s hands.
The PML-N was on the offensive throughout the PPP’s tenure. It started with taking the Memogate case to the SC, followed by Shahbaz Sharif’s declaration that he would drag the then president, Asif Zardari, on the roads of Lahore. A month later when Gilani was convicted of contempt of court Sharif demanded immediate resignation from the PPP’s prime minister.
Now comes Zardari’s turn. No matter what happens, a truce with Nawaz Sharif is out of the question, he maintains. The PPP chief says ‘the war’ will continue and it will be a long war. “This time [during general elections] we shall appoint our own chief minister in Punjab no matter who we have to enter into an alliance with.” Nawaz has recently expressed regrets over his role in Memogate case. Zardari too might one day feel remorse over his present stance. It appears however that the claims of having learnt from the past were just empty words.
Ignoring the advice to resolve the Panamagate issue in Parliament, the PML-N took the matter to the SC. When Nawaz was disqualified, he decided to up the ante. The GT road rally was aimed at putting pressure on both the SC and the army. This was a folly because unlike 1997, when Nawaz got away with the storming of the apex court, ground realities had changed during the last two decades. The SC is united and enjoys the support of the legal community, a free media is in place and the opposition fully backs the court. The army has meanwhile retrieved its image as Operation Zarb-i-Azb has led to a perceptible reduction in terrorism. Nawaz Sharif’s policy of taking on the establishment has in fact the potential to divide the PML-N. As the pressure from NAB increases a section of the party led by Punjab CM turns to the army for support.