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Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif said that the country knows who steal millions from the people, but nobody questions them. “Corruption has ruined our country and its structure,” the CM said. “The corrupt are being treated like the elite in our country, and we all know who steals in millions. If we don’t change our role, then history will never forgive us for it.”

Read more: London Plan: PML-N rejects minus Nawaz formula as Nisar lambastes party

The world is lit with Iqbal’s poetry,” said the CM while addressing the media in Lahore on Thursday after visiting the mausoleum of the late poet. “However, we still remain in the dark and are constantly struggling”.

Experts believe that Imran Khan was the actual target of Shahbaz’s jibe. This statement came at a time when PML-N is under pressure due to multi-faceted reasons, the prime being the rumours of rifts within the ruling party. Analysts believe that such statements by Sharif brothers are made to divert attention from ‘power struggle’ within PML-N which has exacerbated tensions between various ruling party figures.

The rift within PML-N began with the cold war between Maryam Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif. However, the fall from grace of Nawaz and his daughter due to the Panama scandal strengthened Shahbaz.

For example, Chaudhry Nisar has been highly vocal in the recent months over the conduct of PML (N). His most recent criticism was lambasting the party as being controlled by self-interests soon after a meeting of PML (N) bigwigs in London. His most dangerous diatribes were attacking Maryam Nawaz, the heir apparent of Nawaz Sharif as well as duelling with interior minister Ahsan Iqbal.

Read more: Cracks in the PML-N: Riaz Pirzada wants Shahbaz Sharif to head…

Chaudry Nisar is said to be in a tug of war with the “Lahori” group within the PML (N). This group consists of Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and Ayaz Sadiq. This rose to prominence after the May 2013 elections that saw the loosening of Chaudry Nisar’s grip over Nawaz Sharif.

Moreover, another PML-N lawmaker Riaz Pirzada called for Nawaz to hand over the party leadership to Shahbaz and avoid confrontation with institutions since it is vital for PML-N’s and Pakistan’s survival.

What are they fighting for?

The rift within PML-N began with the cold war between Maryam Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif. However, the fall from grace of Nawaz and his daughter due to the Panama scandal strengthened Shahbaz. In the end, despite a war of statements and political maneuvering, Maryam lost out to Shahbaz as the Prime Minister candidate for 2018.

Read more: Iqbal vs Nisar: The deepening internal war?

Yet other major differences remain. The most prominent is the path the party must follow until the 2018 elections. For a time it was thought that in the run-up to the NA-120 elections, that the PML (N) was committed to remaining in government for the full tenure of its period. However, after the results of the NA-120 election, that way of thinking has changed.

Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif said that the country knows who steals millions from the people, but nobody questions them.

The by-polls of NA-120, the subsequent NA-4 elections which the PML (N) lost badly and increasing pressure on the Sharif clan, economic decline, as well as the unearthing of corruption charges against the Punjab government have given the perception that waiting till 2018 will result in the loss for PML (N).

Therefore, Nawaz Sharif and his group are on a warpath. It aims to start of a clash of institutions and destabilize the current government in order to preempt early polls. This is very apparent with the speeches of Nawaz against the judiciary, the constant references by certain PML (N) leaders to “hidden forces” out to sabotage PML (N) efforts, Khawaja Asif statements in the USA and eye-catching incidents such as the one occurring with Ahsan Iqbal.

Chaudry Nisar is said to be in a tug of war with the “Lahori” group within the PML (N). This group consists of Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and Ayaz Sadiq.

However, this pro-Nawaz group faces a formidable challenge from within its own ranks. The opposing group revolves around the current Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who desires the system to continue, as they believe such a course will be beneficial to PML (N) in the long turn. They need to work with the other institutions to preserve the system otherwise they will suffer the most.

This group has tried to placate the anti-system Nawaz group by changing the party’s constitution and allowing Nawaz Sharif to stay the head of the PML (N), in order to divert from their crusade to end his tenure. Yet Nawaz has not been fazed, continuing on a crusade against institutions.

Read more: Nisar’s statements point to possible tensions within PML(N)

It is Nawaz’s continuing war against the institutions and attempts to engineer early elections that are prolonging the rifts within PML (N).

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