LAHORE - After PML-N Federal Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada’s call for replacing Nawaz Sharif with his younger brother as head of the PML-N and reports about emergence of a forward bloc in Punjab favouring Shehbaz Sharif’s leadership, political observers are expecting important developments in next couple of weeks.

Shehbaz and his close associates are conspicuously silent on the issue, giving credence to claims that Punjab chief minister is gauging the strength of support for his candidacy as the new supreme leader of the ruling party.

Opposition leader Sheikh Rasheed, who spent almost a whole political life in the Nawaz-led League before deserting it, claimed the other day that as many as 80 parliamentarians of the PML-N were ready to leave the party.

He not only named Ch Nisar and PM Abbasi as being among that group but also Saad Rafique – deemed to be a Nawaz loyalist. Saad however rejected Sheikh’s claim as a mere wish of the Awami Muslim League chief.

Apparently the situation is calm yet as of yet, the observers however see a storm brewing in the PML-N, the outcome of which determine the future of the ruling party and fate of its key leaders.

Observers say that Pirzada’s statement is a feeler, and which side the situation takes the turn would become clear only after a couple of weeks.

It’s quite possible that Shehbaz once again strongly comes in support of his brother and the dissent dies down. But things could go in the other direction if the reports about deep split between House of Nawaz and House of Shehbaz are not untrue, they say.

Political experts believe that Shehbaz would take the risk only if feels confident that he can lead the party on his own and keep it largely intact despite divorcing Nawaz – the man thought to be real vote-puller in the party.

The massive support for Nawaz Sharif in all the party cadres is beyond doubt, but parliamentarians are against his policy of confrontation with the judiciary and army. They believe that the war launched by Nawaz to save his own skin and that of his family could ultimately ruin their (MPs’) own political carriers.

This is what aptly explains the lukewarm resentment shown to Pirzada’s apparently outrageous statement, which tells one more than meets the eye.

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, Federal Minister Birjees Tahir and some others have opposed Pirzada’s statement but the resistance shown was not that much strong as was expected, given the tall claims about Nawaz’s popularity and indispensability.

His idea has actually been reinforced by the favourable word of former prime minister Zafarullah Jamali for Shehbaz Sharif.

Pirzada has played smartly by naming Shehbaz as his elder brother’s replacement. Shehbaz is the strongest man in the PML-N after Nawaz, and his reconciliatory disposition for peaceful coexistence with the army provides the party men the guarantee of their political survival and vibrancy.

The information gathered from the party sources outline a situation wherein not all but many are pensive about their political future which they believe is at stake if confrontational politics of Nawaz and company is pursued.

Generally, everyone in the party wants continuation of the PML-N government and completion of its term as it will not only pay the party off in the March Senate election but also provide it a convincing position to take part in the next election.

And that is possible only if the judiciary and the establishment are not confronted head on and the NAB references are faced on legal and judicial plain, instead of threats of political agitation and mass mobilisation.

It is learned from the sources that a thinking of securing individual political survival has begun to take root in the party.

As such Pirzada’s statement has been openly welcomed by a group in the party which also includes some ministers.

A parliamentarian on the condition of not being named shared, they were pushed to the corner after joining the PML-N and now will think twice before becoming gun fodder for personal battle of anyone. As such, the best choice is Shehbaz Sharif, he added.

The Parliamentarians who joined the party before the election and those from southern Punjab are being said to be the greatest supports of the call for replacing Nawaz as PML-N president.

A media report also revealed that a group with this mind held a meeting at the residence of MPA Shaukat Ali Lalika. The meeting was apparently meant to receive Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar on his return from Saudi Arabia after performing haj, yet the Leaguers discussed the direction adopted by incumbent president Nawaz Sharif and juxtaposed the same with that of Shehbaz Sharif’s.

Pirzada’s statement and the reported formation of the forward bloc for sidelining Nawaz Sharif do not mean that the die has been cast. However it is a clear indication that Nawaz, who has been accused of using party for his personal interests in face of accountability cases, is losing support among party leaders because of his confrontational style of politics.