A bittersweet victory for ruling party

November 22, 2017

LAHORE - The defeat to the opposition bill over a disqualified person becoming head of a political party is a big booster for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif although the vote count against the legislation was not encouraging for the ruling party .

As many as 163 members in the National Assembly opposed the bill, but this count does not match even the actual strength of 188 members of the PML-N members in the house, what to speak of its allies, Fata members and independents. The joint opposition could gather 98 votes and the number of cast votes remained 261 of out of the 342-member house. This shows that 81 members did not take part in the proceedings for one reason or the other. Nevertheless, defeat to the opposition bill is a big sigh of relief not only for Nawaz Sharif but also for Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Had the bill been carried to strike down the previously adopted legislation on October 2 last, it would have jolted the PML-N and encouraged the opposition to challenge Khaqan’s retention in the premier office through a demand for fresh vote of trust in the background fears about forward bloc in the N-League and cracks in the party .

Although the worst is over for Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N, ordeal isn’t. Sheikh Rashid has challenged the relevant clause 203 of the Election Reforms Bill before the Supreme Court of Pakistan on various factual and legal grounds.

Nawaz Sharif, direct through the house, has twice got life to his office as PML-N head that will go a long way to enable him to keep himself alive in politics in a big way.

According to the political analysts, Tuesday’s vote of the house is very important not only for Nawaz Sharif’s political life but also for his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other Sharifs, and those who are sitting in the power corridors and in the party after the structure on both sides was orchestrated following the July 28 decision. Above all, the top most office in the party is the most powerful tool in the hands of Nawaz Sharif for the mass-contact drive he has embarked on through public meetings wherein he is venting the fury against the judiciary and the establishment to blame them for his ouster from the power. The analysts say public meetings are the most effective instrument in Nawaz Sharif’s hand to plead his case before the masses and mitigate impact of the ongoing criminal cases against him and his family members among the public as well as to keep their support alive in his favour and against the likely future odds.

Although this indeed is a heyday for the Sharifs and the party , the subject in hand is still before the Supreme Court that will scrutinise the matter giving precedence to legality and constitutionality relevant to the issue over political considerations.

The background facts also need to be highlighted here that over the last month reports about cracks in the PML-N had been rife in the media. The PML-N denied the same, but not with full heart as its leadership also smelt something happening within the party . Reports also emerged about 60 to 70 members of the ruling party going to announce a forward bloc in the house. Outlining activity of the N ‘disgruntled,’ the media reported them as going to be a factor for major changes in the government and cited their disharmony with a disqualified person holding the office of president of the party as one of the reasons. The statement of Federal Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada who had called for replacing Nawaz Sharif with his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif as the party head was a point in support. However, barring a few, no big number of N-disgruntled is visible and if that exists anywhere in the party , it will be discouraged after rejection of the bill in the Parliament. Despite all that fear is likely to continue lurking in the mind of the N leadership as to the members who did not show up to vote in the house despite the fact that the NA speaker was especially instructed to ensure presence of all and Nawaz Sharif and his other aides in the party remained active to see all available members present there on the D-day. But it did not happen and apprehensions are likely to loom large in the time to come.

The political analysts view the opposition side also did not complete homework about agitating the matter in the Parliament. From their perspective, which a section of politicians also supports, if the opposition had taken time to let things become visible, the situation would have been different. But now it is over for the opposition and the ball is in the court of law and for the PML-N ‘all is well that ends well.’