PML-N’s paranoia breeds confusion, intensifies internal strife


Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) firebrand leader Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif’s swift and unexpected U-turn vis-à-vis the completion of the Pakistan People’s Party government’s tenure has stunned the party workers on one hand and on the other paid testimony to PML-N’s politics of confusion marked with internal differences and untimely somersaults. Shahbaz, who had stirred up the PML-N workers by raising ‘Go Zardari Go’ slogans in the party’s central general council meeting held in Islamabad on July 27 and had also asked his elder brother Nawaz Sharif to launch a decisive movement against the government without wasting a moment, surprised everyone when during his recent visit to flood-affected areas in Sindh said that the incumbent government should complete its mandated term, as that was its constitutional right.
Surprisingly, the younger Sharif made the statement in favour of the completion of the PPP government’s tenure just a few days after the demand by PML-N President Nawaz Sharif was made for immediate short-term polls over the government’s failure to deliver on its promises to the masses.
The disparity between the brothers’ views brought to light within less than a month indicates not only the confused politics or indecisiveness of the PML-N but also exposes differences within the party’s rank and file over its future course of action. On July 27, Shahbaz had advised Nawaz that neither the nation nor the PML-N could afford to give ‘corrupt’ governments time to complete a five-year term, suggesteing that by the end of the term there would be nothing left to be governed by the next government of honest politicians (the PML-N).
Shahbaz took only a few days to change his mind about the PPP government, while Nawaz, after appeasing the hostile sentiments of his younger brother and thousands of party workers towards the Zardari-led government in the central general council meeting, came up with unprecedented demands of snap-polls which were flatly rejected by Prime Minister Gilani.
Background discussions with the PML-N leaders suggest that Nawaz and his comrades have not yet devised a crystal-clear policy vis-à-vis the fate of the PPP government. PML-N hawks like Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, Shahbaz Sharif, Khwaja Asif, Tehmina Daultana, and Khwaja Saad Rafique want to rock the boat, while on the other side Nawaz Sharif leads the group of party doves like Ishaq Dar, Ghous Ali Shah, Sartaj Aziz, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Raja Zafarul Haq, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and others which resist the hawks, saying that they would not offer the PPP any opportunity achieve political martyrdom.
Interaction with the PML-N leaders further suggests that there is a strong realisation in the party ranks that the PML-N has not yet done its homework, particularly in provinces other than Punjab, which is a necessary political prerequisite for going to the ballot. “If the party succeeds in sending the PPP government packing as a result of a massive public drive, we have no preparations for contesting elections in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in PPP’s stronghold Sindh. We need more time to gain roots in the provinces and regions where the party badly lacks street support,” said a PML-N leader in an informal talk.
On the other hand, PML-N hawks believe, with fluctuating strength of conviction, that the PML-N’s policy of accommodation and tolerance for the PPP government was creating a vacuum for smaller parties like Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which can turn into a serious threat to PML-N’s candidates in the next elections. They fear that Imran Khan’s growing popularity in urban pockets of Punjab could do irreparable damage to the PML-N in the next elections when the party would probably also be facing tough competition from the PPP-PML-Q alliance. The PML-N workers at the grass root level are also pushing the party’s top command to go all out against the government and voicing concern over the PML-N’s leniency towards the PPP government every time Nawaz or Shahbaz have an interactive session with them.
Senator Parvez Rashid of the PML-N contested the standpoint that there were frequent changes of mind in the PML-N. “Nawaz did not demand short-term elections. When the TV anchor asked about the solution of the existing situation, he just proposed that either snap polls or in-house change could be the solution,” the senator said. He said the PML-N was not in a position to bring in-house change, therefore there was only one option to get rid of the existing chaos and that was to go for a fresh mandate. “We are united on the policy that the PML-N would never use the lever of military establishment to remove the PPP government,” he added.
Some PML-N insiders claim that party leaders, particularly members of Shahbaz’s cabinet in Punjab, were also softening the younger brother’s harsh stance against the PPP government in the Centre. “Despite their tirade against Zardari and Gilani, these provincial ministers, including Zulfiqar Khosa and Rana Sanaullah, do not want to lose the perks, privileges and protocols before time. They are advising the party’s top command to take to the streets only in case the PPP-PML-Q alliance tries to dislodge the PML-N government in the province,” said a PML-N leader asking not to be attributed.


  1. Very interesting indeed. The foreign pressure to sustain this government is not discussed though.

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