Who is working on fragmentation of PML-N?

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:36 PM, 23 Oct, 2021
Who is working on fragmentation of PML-N?
File photo.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has predicted the emergence of a third faction of the PML-N before the next elections, which if held on time are due in 2023. 

Speaking to journalists in Islamabad a few days ago he claimed that after “Meem” and “Sheen” factions another group would appear from the PML-N. (Meem and Sheen symbolize Maryam Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif). 

At a time when already dozens of political parties are in the field, is it a good or a bad news from the national point of view?   

Although for narrow-minded political rivals it will be a good development, it will not at all be in the country’s interest. 

However, since Sheikh Rasheed is holding an important portfolio at present and is supposed to know many behind-the-scene developments the common mortals cannot even think of, his claim cannot be rejected out of hand. 

But instead of ‘celebrating’ the ‘good news’ in the pipeline, the interior minister must bear in mind its likely implications for the country. 

The ‘chronic bachelor’ of Rawalpindi who is now enjoying 15th ministry in various set ups, he knows well how important are strong and popular political parties for a country, and how difficult and patience-testing is the launching and popularizing of a party. 

Sheikh Rasheed himself is the head of his Awami Muslim League and is among the most sought-after leaders. He is seen on TV screens more often than any other minister. People like him for his witty, humorous and spicy remarks, at times encapsulating indications about shape of things to come. 

Despite all this, his party has only one seat in the National Assembly. In other houses the AML is non-existent. 

This means this personal popularity has not translated into representation in parliament.  

On the other hand, the PML-N has 84 seats in the National Assembly. 

It is the largest opposition in the Punjab Assembly and has a good representation even in the Senate. 

Realistically speaking, this means 84 Sheikh Rasheeds are equal to one Nawaz Sharif. 

Being interior minister, aware of the requirements of national security, the leader from Rawalpindi should be happy that there are parties like the PML-N and PPP that get support from all federating units. He should know that tiny parties, with influence confined to some districts, tehsils or constituencies, or the ones that exist only on papers serve no useful purpose.  

Parties like JUI, ANP, MQM and Jamaat-i-Islami have been in the field for decades but have failed to go beyond certain constituencies.  

If Sheikh Rasheed’s party is taken as an ideal, 172 parties will be needed to join hands to form a government at the centre. 

(The National Assembly comprises 342 seats, and 172 is the majority required for anyone aspiring for the top slot). 

Not many people remember that there was a time when Sheikh Rasheed was among the people closest to Mian Nawaz Sharif when the latter was the Punjab Chief Minister. 

Young Nawaz Sharif, then trying to emerge as a national leader, started confrontation with the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the first female who got the crown because of the sympathy vote after the execution of her father Z.A. Bhutto.  

Sheikh Rasheed used to advise Nawaz Sharif: Mian Sahib Tun Kay Rakho. (Give her a tough time). 

The advice suited the industrialist-turned-politician and he stoked the confrontation with the PPP leader by adhering to it in letter and spirit. 

(Since old habits die hard, he uses the same ‘tun kay’ phrase against the opposition parties. He has repeatedly claimed despite opposition’s protests Imran Khan tun kay paanch saal pooray karay ga.   

The purpose of recalling this is to make Sheikh Rasheed realise that despite the fact that he worked with a number of leaders and is among popular leaders, he could not raise a party with public following. He is a Rawalpindi leader and there is absolutely no chance of him getting support in any other constituency of the country. 

In other words, he remains what he was several decades ago.  

And now when he says he will retire from politics, and probably not contest the next election, he should not support any move aimed at weakening or fragmenting any national party. He should use his influence to advise other individuals or institutions to give up such plans.