PML-N will have to improve ties with establishment or face another ‘selected’

Published: 04:10 PM, 3 Aug, 2021
PML-N will have to improve ties with establishment or face another ‘selected’
Caption: File photo.
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The PML-N has been the main opposition party after the 2018 elections. 

Three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is its supreme leader and real decision-maker. 

Convicted and disqualified by court, he has been living in London for the past 21 months on medical grounds. 

With his blessings his younger brother - Shehbaz Sharif - is the party president. 

But Shehbaz is just a titular head – like the president of Pakistan. Powerlessness is the commonality between the two. 

In a recent TV interview with an anchor, who is a known PML-N supporter and PTI hater – Shehbaz Sharif underlined the need for ‘collective wisdom and efforts’ to make Pakistan self-reliant. 

In case we failed to do this even after 70 years of the country’s existence neither Allah nor future generations will forgive us, he said. 

Known as man of peace and conciliation, the three-time chief minister of Punjab said if Pakistan has to regain its past glory, everybody will have to rise above personal likes and dislikes.

About the outcome of the 2018 elections, the PML-N president said with a right strategy worked out by the party, Mian Nawaz Sharif could have become prime minister for a fourth time. 

The interview gave a strong impression that the PML-N chief was still in favour of a grand dialogue for the greater good of the country. 

Doubtlessly, it’s the right approach. Serious problems confronting the country will persist without such an approach as it was beyond the capacity of the inexperienced PTI to grapple with them. 

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was quick to come up with a positive response to the PML-N chief’s idea, saying the government’s doors of talks are wide open for him if he buries the bitter past (bitterness). 

But before any headway on this front, the London-based Nawaz Sharif came up with some tweets. 

He said the PML-N’s struggle will not be for just to win or lose some seats rather it is for getting rid from slavery of violators of the Constitution. 

He also ridiculed the outcome of the recent AJK elections. He said who will believe in such a victory of PTI which secured 26 seats in AJK elections with 600,000 votes, while PML-N got six seats with 500,000 votes. He said that the results of AJK and Sialkot elections had started pouring out before holding of these elections.  

Another PML-N leader, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who too is a former prime minister, disputed Shehbaz Sharif’s statement that a better strategy for 2018 elections could have afforded another opportunity to Mian Nawaz Sharif to serve as country’s chief executive. 

These statements are certainly embarrassing for Shehbaz Sharif

They raise questions about the powers of the PML-N chief to devise or explain the party policy. 

He is the party head who doesn’t know the party policy and has to look towards London or Maryam Nawaz (in Pakistan) to seek guidance on any subject. 

Media reports suggest that with the passage of time there is growing realization among the party leaders that relations with the military establishment should be normalized without delay. They are convinced that any delay on this front would seal the fate of the party in the 2023 general elections. 

However, so far there is little headway on this front, nor Mian Shehbaz Sharif feels embarrassed when he is unable to explain the party policy on certain subjects. 

He also doesn’t step down as party chief because such a step would mean offering the mantle to somebody out of the Sharif family. 

Many in the party believe that “non-Sharifs” can be given any office but not the headship. 

Strangely, the elder brother talks of resistance/ confrontation while younger brother stresses the need for conciliation. Both the conflicting narratives are being propagated simultaneously. 

The former prime minister’s resolve to get rid of the slavery of the violators of the Constitution, ostensibly, means that the struggle against the military establishment will continue in the times ahead. Violators of the Constitution, according to the PML-N leadership, are none but those who have been interfering in the matter of the elected governments on various occasions. 

On the other hand, there is little flexibility for the Sharifs in the attitude of the military leadership. 

It’s an open secret that the Sharifs could enter politics and rise to important positions with the blessings of the military establishment. They know better than anybody else the role this patronage plays in politics

The leadership will have to resolve differences with the military establishment before the 2023 elections, otherwise they may have to tolerate some other ‘selected’ after the 2023 elections.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.