The PML-N is in a policy-orientation dilemma of its own for quite some time. A convincing gap has set in between its perceptions vis-a-vis the state and the government and the way it wishes to mould realities on the ground. This is why it is believed that the country’s largest political party has fallen out with the Establishment, of which it had been a cardinal part since its inception. But that is one aspect of the puzzle it finds itself in. On the other hand, the PML of Nawaz Sharif is still one of the most popular national parties and has a massive vote bank, especially in Punjab. It is also a foregone conclusion that none knows better than the PML-N how to campaign and rally the electorate.
But the last few weeks and months have seen the PML-N being battered to the core. It has struggled to keep its edge in the electoral arena in Punjab. The party’s recent loss in a Punjab Assembly bye-election in Sialkot, its stronghold, is being seen as an emboldening upset pulled off by the PTI. Likewise, it had to face rout in Azad Jammu & Kashmir elections, which has now become a bane of controversy between the higher cadres of leadership.
It is a fact that the party has two echelons of decision-making, and the contest is between Maryam Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. Apparently under pressure from a plethora of alleged corruption cases, the PML-N has not been able to sustain a single pace and a vociferous narrative in terms of national and international policies. Plus, its ‘select-few’ passion for Army-bashing has cost it dear. Maryam and her coterie are primarily accused of toeing such an unwise approach; and the good point is that senior party stalwarts have taken exception to it. This brinkmanship is proving to be suicidal.
Reports of Shehbaz Sharif crossing swords with his patron and elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, are not a good omen. They need a thorough in-house dialogue before making it a public manifesto. There is no dearth of prudent people in the PML-N, and it is time for them to rise above partisan politics and evolve a pro-national narrative. No point in being cast as a pariah.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2021.
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