Another honeymoon: On the return of Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif’s deal with the military is unlikely to last long

After his ouster, Mr. Khan launched a frontal attack on the PML-N and the military. The establishment, along with the post-Khan coalition government that was headed by Mr. Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif, responded with a massive crackdown on the PTI. But the military’s witch-hunt has only made Mr. Khan more popular. On the other side, the PML-N, Mr. Khan’s main political rival, was grappling with internal divisions and external challenges. The party now hopes that the charismatic elder Sharif, who is popular among its conservative base and influential among Punjab’s wealthy business establishment, revives the PML-N ahead of the elections. For Mr. Sharif, the support of the generals is necessary to vacate the cases he faces and have his disqualification lifted. But the road ahead is tough. There is a groundswell of anger against the PML-N under whose watch the economic situation has deteriorated, with hyperinflation, joblessness, a tanking rupee and a looming balance of payment crisis. To overcome these challenges and defeat Imran Khan, Mr. Sharif would need the blessings of, if not active support from, the generals, which in turn would weaken the civilian institutions and strengthen the hands of the military. And his own record suggests that Mr. Sharif does not get along with the generals after the honeymoon period. This is the cyclical tragedy Pakistan finds itself within.