What kind of ‘level-playing field’ PML-N wants?

After burning its political capital, Nawaz’s party appears unwilling to go to the people now


Rizwan Shehzad   November 21, 2022
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif with daughter and party Vice President Maryam Nawaz in London on Oct 09, 2022. Photo: Twitter/MaryamNawaz

ISLAMABAD:

It won’t be exaggeration to say that the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is not ready to go to the people right now.

Keeping PTI’s winning streak in the recent by-polls and its chairman’s public appeal despite his shifting stance on various issues in view, the coalition government openly admits that it cannot afford elections right now, especially after “burning its political capital”.

Subsequently, the PML-N leadership and other parties in the ruling alliance often say that they would want elections when things settle down a bit. They argue that the government had to take “tough decisions” because of the “landmines” laid that the previous government when its ouster appeared certain.

Additionally, they say that precarious economic situation and the floods that wreaked havoc in the country, coupled with fresh census in the coming months and subsequent delimitation exercise are some of the other factors that might cause hindrance in calling snap polls.

As far as the level-playing field is concerned, renowned political analyst Zaigham Khan said that the PML-N’s stance was “quite clear: undo the injustices meted out to the party in the past”.

The analyst said that the main purpose of the demand was that the cases against PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and other party leaders should conclude. According to Zaigham Khan, the PML-N would like to see its leaders acquitted following the judicial process and allowed to play their role in politics.

Zaigham said that the most interesting twist were some of the statements of Maryam Nawaz in which she said that the PTI should be treated the same way the PML-N was treated in the past and the laws should be applied on PTI chief Imran Khan and other party leaders the way those were applied to the PML-N leadership.

“Maryam believes if the laws were applied on Imran Khan and the PTI leadership equally only then it would be considered an even playing field,” Zaigham said, adding: “I think it’s more of a political statement and shows her anger.”

A PML-N leader, requesting not to be named, also admitted that the party wished that justice should prevail in Nawaz and other party leaders’ cases. He added that Nawaz’s return from London was also needed to run a proper election campaign as the party had seen what happened in the recent by-elections.

Some PML-N insiders say that elections should only be held after all parties get a level-playing field as the ruling alliance currently feels that it has burned its political capital by taking some unpopular decisions after coming into power back in April.

They also say that the crux of their private discussions is that the ruling party should be given enough time to mould public opinion in its favour through its performance in the remaining constitutional period while the impact of its unpopular decisions evaporated.

The PML-N cadre believes that once Nawaz is back, the economic situation gets a little better, the rupee is strengthened against the dollar and petroleum prices are reduced, only then the PML-N, the face of the government, can confidently go to the people.

PML-N sources have recently revealed that the government was clear in its mind that it wanted stable relations with the establishment, adding the plan was to achieve “reverse engineering” and to appoint a military chief, who does not force the government for early elections.

“Agreeing to early polls or giving a date would be tantamount to committing political suicide,” a source had said. “As the PTI is mounting pressure for early polls through its long march and rallies, the government is determined that it will not budge from its stance that elections will be held after August 2023.

Since his ouster through the no-confidence motion in April, PTI chairman has been demanding fresh general election, or at least a date for it. The PTI had concluded its second phase of the long march on November 19 and was gearing up to hold a rally on November 26 in Rawalpindi.

The timing of the resumption of the long march is crucial as the government is expected to announce the name of the new army chief this week and the change of command ceremony will take place on November 29.

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