Just hours after the Pakistani government threatened opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with “life imprisonment and a fine” for sedition, Sharif spoke at a rally in Jhelum. At the rally, he declared that “we cannot leave Pakistan at the mercy of (President Asif Ali) Zardari,” and told his supporters to “get ready to make sacrifices for a revolution.”
Sharif’s Pakistani Muslim League-N (PML-N) party left the coalition government in August, when the ruling Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP) reneged on their promise to restore judges ousted by former President Pervez Musharraf. Since then the PML-N had been the largest opposition party in the national government and the ruling party in Punjab Province.
That all changed last month, when the Pakistani Supreme Court announced that both Sharif and his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were ineligible to hold public office for their opposition to the 1999 military coup of then-General Musharraf. President Zardari then seized direct control over the Punjab Province, sparking a growing series of protests with the brothers Sharif at the helm.
The Pakistani government had already been facing financial ruin and growing international disquiet over their truce with the assorted militant factions in Swat Valley, as well as the prospect of war with neighboring India. With all of its problems, the prospect of a pro-democracy revolt with its base in the few areas that weren’t already in open rebellion seems a virtually insurmountable challenge for the Zardari administration and its American backers.