Can PML-N outmaneuver PTI with Nawaz in Pakistan?

  • Ahsan Iqbal says that people are angry over Nawaz being in jail
  • PTI claims Shehbaz and Nawaz are not on one page regarding ‘anti-establishment’ narrative
  • Analyst says Nawaz’s return has saved PML from ‘further disintegration’ 

LAHORE: The return of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif despite his conviction in the Avenfield case has sparked a new debate in the political circles that whether the PML-N has regained new vigour to be able to outplay the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the July 25 elections.

Pakistan Today spoke to parties concerned and independent political analysts regarding prevailing political uncertainty in the country.

The PML-N view:

Former interior minister and PML-N stalwart Ahsan Iqbal told Pakistan Today, “It [Nawaz’s return] is already making a difference.”

“When we go to public meetings, we can gauge the public’s anger regarding the fact that Nawaz returned for his ideology while his wife’s medical condition was not very good,” the former minister added.

Iqbal also said, “It angers the people when they sleep at night knowing that there is electricity in the country and their leader is in jail.”

Speaking about the fact that the rally organised by the PML-N party president could not reach the airport in time of Nawaz’s landing, the PML-N stalwart explained, “The idea was to demonstrate a show of solidarity and that idea was expressed in a very powerful manner.”

“Everyone knew that even at the airport Nawaz would not be allowed to address party workers so reaching the airport was inconsequential,” Iqbal added.


However, the archrival of the PML-N, Imran Khan-led PTI begs to differ.

Answering a question regarding Nawaz’s touchdown and whether it will allow the PML-N to reinvigorate itself in terms of votes, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, “The people feel that it [Avenfield reference verdict] is not a political case and Nawaz is not a political victim.”

“The people know that Nawaz’s case is one of money laundering and his failure to justify the accumulation of wealth,” Qureshi observed, adding that “the voters can now differentiate between ‘corruption and political victimisation'”.

Answering a question regarding former defence minister and PML-N leader Khawaja Asif’s statement that the party had already decided two days earlier not to reach the airport on the eve of Nawaz’s return, Qureshi said, “This is just an excuse to cover up their failure.”

“The party is divided,” the former foreign minister asserted, adding that even Shehbaz has not accepted Nawaz’s narrative “mentally”.

Moreover, a big chunk within the PML-N disagrees and opposes the convicted former PM’s narrative, Qureshi explained.


Commenting on claims being made by PML-N leaders that Nawaz returned for the sake of democracy, PPP stalwart Qamar Zaman Kaira told Pakistan Today, “Nawaz did not come back for democracy, this is not martial law; Nawaz was justly convicted.”

Speaking about PML-N leader Asif’s statement, Kaira opined, “They [PML-N leaders] are making these statements because they could not reach the airport,” adding, “If this was the original plan and the workers were called to march to the airport then the PML-N leadership, in fact, cheated their party workers.”

Independent political analysis:

Pakistan Today sought political analyst Ayaz Amir’s opinion on the issue, who said, “Returning was a sensible decision on Nawaz’s part but this is a new territory and whether his return will reinvigorate the party is a difficult question to answer.”

“This is an entirely new scenario and Nawaz’s return could mean that after the elections, the PML-N could find itself as the principal opposition party,” he said. “Nawaz’s return means that the party has saved itself from further disintegration.”


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