The leader of the opposition took it a bit too far when he said that Mr Khan’s shenanigans actually empower Nawaz Sharif; in fact the manner in which the PML-N and the PTI have gone at it over the past few years has empowered the men in khaki no end. That Imran Khan has not yet achieved his goal — to evict Nawaz Sharif from the PM house and occupy it himself — is a reflection only of the fact that our uniformed guardians have till now had no reason to upend the apple cart. In short, the system, as dysfunctional and conflict-ridden as it appears, is ultimately unaffected by the PML (N)-PTI sparring.
Make no mistake: the system is not immune to shocks, and serious ones at that. But it survives regardless. Indeed, it might even be argued that the manner in which the TV media in particular amplifies relatively meaningless political bickering serves the system – and its primary beneficiaries – quite well. The combination of a dominant security establishment, more-loyal-than-the-king political actors, a state ideology that is generally considered a sacred cow, the religious right, foreign powers playing out the Great Game, and various smaller players in the realm of everyday state and market surely makes for a lot of contingency. But this contingency aside, real structural questions are always swept under the carpet, and so the ebbs and flows never translate into systemic shifts.