By Mehr F. Husain
14 November 2014
If there's anything Imran Khan has achieved with his Dharnas it's that he has weakened PM Sharif politically - and that's no small feat, given the landslide victory the PML N achieved in the 2013 elections.
Adding fuel to the fire are the events at Wagah and Kot Radha Kishan which exposed weaknesses in the PML N governance, especially in their home province of Punjab.
Therefore, it is easy to assume that at this moment that the PM is hoping to complete the rest of his tenure as quietly as possible.
So with a political crisis averted, (so far!) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has turned his focus back onto a key area – the energy crisis.
Will it be enough? Not likely. Right now, PM Sharif's entire mandate lies in tatters and it is imperative, not just for his own survival but for the country's sake, that some sort of solution is provided to ensure the country does not fall prey to complete darkness – literally.
Having successfully signed on several agreements with China that aim to eliminate the energy crisis, one can only hope that the PM's trip to Germany will also yield positive substantive results that can assist the country's economy.
The successful deals with China provided some form of damage control in the wake of economic and political obstacles on the road to prosperity since coming to power in 2013.
The gas pipeline deal with Iran got shelved, unresolved regional tensions with India means little trade, the battle against a resilient enemy - such as the TTP - limits the appeal to investors, and inflation threatens to undermine the government's pledges to an already burdened nation and Imran Khan's Dharnas which have maligned the government's public image abroad and at home.
Critics of the PML N as a party also express disappointment over the lack of good governance and the use of populist tactics which have had little effect on provinces other than Punjab.
Increasingly, it appears that the PML N's worst enemy may just be itself.
The PTI which had gained much public support for its Dharnas, now sees its support base waning away, the spirit gone, the national focus on more pressing issues.
Even worse, whatever support political critics were willing to cede to Imran Khan on the basis of his legitimate and justified stand over electoral rigging have quickly withdrawn their sympathetic ears.
For, while electoral reforms are necessary, Imran Khan's demand that undemocratic organisations including the ISI and MI be part of the investigation into the elections is not conducive to the creation of an election commission.
Yet, there still lurks one political opponent who if stoked, does have the ability to thwart the government — the military.
And the danger is that if PML N continues the way it does by pursuing the case against Musharraf and without resolving problems with Imran Khan who is implying a military intervention, who knows what would happen?
While the demands for his resignation have fallen silent, enabling PM Sharif to continue his quest to resolve the energy crisis and while his government scrambles to come to some sort of compromise between the people’s suffering and the IMF's demands, these two areas are too big to ignore.
With a weak political clout, it would not be wise to push the military who is already annoyed by the PM's insistence on keeping the army out of crucial decision making.
Nor would it bode well for the PM to ignore the fact that Imran Khan has called for military support and intervention — and yet there is still some support for PTI.
While it is not evident that the military will support PTI or that the judiciary is on track to try more members of the military, the political hurdles may not have yet come to an end.
While the PML N may still be in power, public sympathy lies with the military over the war and Imran Khan over his principled stand.
Much as they are needed, energy deals alone may not be enough to survive.
Mehr F. Husain is a columnist based in Lahore