As predicted by many political commentators in Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), former ruling party, is divided on almost every outstanding issue ranging from the matter of unconditionally supporting the army chief’s extension in service to who will lead the party in the absence of principal leadership. Reliable sources claim that Maryam Nawaz and Khawaja Asif, and some other senior leaders, are not ready to work under each other’s leadership. This is creating rifts within the party which may lead to forward bloc in the future.
This power game is far from over, as contrary to the expectations of many political pundits and analysts, the behind-the-scenes dialogues have not ended, nor has the PML-N’s political strategy of mending fences with the establishment backfired. https://t.co/Zvi8MNNFEG— imad zafar (@rjimad) March 10, 2020
The senior leadership of the PML-N on Tuesday urged party president and National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif to return to the country and lead the upcoming protests against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The PML-N chief had left Pakistan with his elder brother Nawaz Sharif after the latter was allowed to go to London for medical treatment in November by the Lahore High Court. Both haven’t returned despite the expiration of bail given to the elder Sharif by the Punjab government.
The demand of Shehbaz’s return was made by Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, considered close to heir apparent Maryam Nawaz, during the parliamentary meeting of the party and was endorsed by other leaders.
PML-N’s leader Rana Sanaullah recently said that the party president would stay in London till his brother Nawaz Sharif undergoes heart procedure.
It is worth noting that this publication recently reported that Shehbaz Sharif is not returning to Pakistan any time soon. Credible sources told GVS that the PML-N’s President is considering various options before making any final decision. “Shehbaz Sharif always wanted to come back to Pakistan but he never trusted Nawaz and Maryam,” a source, GVS spoke with, said.
Earlier, media reports claimed that Shehbaz Sharif held a two-hour-long consultative meeting with elder brother and former premier, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. It was revealed, read reports, that Shehbaz Sharif will board a flight tentatively within the next two days for his return to home soil.
According to sources, the PMLN members also considered the appointment of a senior leader, preferably Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, to head the party in parliament in the absence of Shehbaz Sharif, as Khwaja Asif was not “representing the aspirations of the party lawmakers”.
A proposal will be sent to London for a final decision, where party president Shehbaz Sharif will decide this after a consultation with supreme leader Nawaz Sharif.
Sources said the party leaders also questioned the role of Khawaja Asif as the parliamentary leader and the party’s decision to support the extension given to the army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Read more: Will Shehbaz Sharif return to Pakistan?
Asif shrugged off the criticism, saying he also used to make passionate speeches when he was “young”. About the extension to the army chief, he said the party leadership took the decision of supporting the extension bill.
Moreover, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed displeasure over the decisions taken at the Business Advisory Committee, which said that the government and opposition lawmakers would be given equal opportunity at the floor of the House.
As per the parliamentary tradition, opposition members are given the opportunity to speak on any issue, whereas a minister’s job is to wind up the debate.
Abbasi questioned the decision to support the new tradition as per which the National Assembly speaker gives the floor to a treasury member as soon as a lawmaker from opposition benches stops talking. He said this tradition has often led to pandemonium in the House instead of a constructive debate.
Bring back Vote ko Izzar Do
During the meeting, Senator Pir Sabir Shah complained that the party had “suffered damage by putting behind the stance [Vote ko Izzat Do] of supremo Nawaz Sharif”. He said that PML-Nshould have “taken advantage of PTI’s poor performance”, adding that the party’s performance in the parliament had disappointed the people. He went on to warn that if the party did not stick to Nawaz’s stance, it would lose the support of the masses.
He also demanded better representations of all provinces in the party and criticized the way decision-making lied in the hands of the leaders belonging to Punjab. “Party should give representation to leaders from provinces other than Punjab in its decision-making process “even if it is only symbolic,” he added.
The heavy price of a ‘mistake’
PML-N leader Javed Latif also spoke during the meeting and said that the party leadership should consult more members before making decisions. He insisted that the party should take practical steps as “targets cannot be achieved by talking”. He urged the party leadership to “move forward and prepare the party for protest”. Latif also predicted that the party will have to face tough criticism as it had “made a mistake which would be realised in times to come”. He did not specify the “mistake” he was referring to.
It is to be seen will Shehbaz Sharif come back to Pakistan or not. However, it is now certain that struggle to become more powerful in the PML-N has just begun, and it may lead to formation of a forward bloc within the party.