LAHORE  -   As the largest political party on the Opposition side, the PML-N is struggling hard to play the frontline role on the issues faced by the country and the policies and action taken by the PTI government on them.

In the given political situation, the PML-N is unable to make a mark and express its presence in an emphatic manner on the political scenario mainly due to legal matters inflicted on its leadership, these views were commonly shared by the party insiders and the political observers.

A few party meetings took place since mid-July when Nawaz Sharif and his daughter turned back to the country and courted arrest in the conviction awarded in Avanfield reference. Subsequently his void became more open when the NAB started investigations against the party president Shehbaz Sharif and summoned his son Hamza Shehbaz in different cases. The situation somewhat discomforted the party members at that time and things became worrisome for them when Shehbaz was taken into custody by the NAB and he is still there.

PML-N Quaid and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is quite reserved and almost abandoned his public appearances and speeches after he and Maryam were released by Islamabad High Court from jail suspending their sentences. Their appeals against the conviction and that of the NAB against suspension of sentences are pending before superior judiciary. Alazizia Steel Mills reference against Nawaz Sharif is at the last stage before the trial court and the picture is not clear as to its outcome. The party, at the moment, cannot afford its quaid to be in jail again. And the qauid himself is cautious and what little bit he is speaking to the media, is well weighed and calculated. The party men are imputing this disposition of the party supremo to the gloom after the demise of his spouse Begum Kulsoom while observers opine, this change of mind is the care which the party quaid is taking to avoid the situation becoming more complicated against him as well as saving his words said in public from being misconstrued.

The party men wanted Nawaz Sharif to speak during the campaign for by-election but he did not which dismayed them badly as the party after the election had announced to play such a role in Opposition which would give a tough time to rulers and do a vocal politics on every issue of the public interests. But it is still awaited.

The overall impact of this situation is disappointing the party workers and the members who want the leadership to give them a clear direction on the issues particularly those relating to the public woes created by policies of the PTI government. The party men are speaking individually on them but no party policy has been announced on the issues of increase in prices in items of daily use and the recent hike in petrol rates and those relating to economy.

Shehbaz Sharif can speak only when he is brought to the National Assembly after production order of the speaker or before the NAB court at the time of his remand. As such, he too is out of loop for any direct contact with the party men and workers. Hamza Shehbaz too has been summoned by the NAB for investigations. 

Recently, Nawaz Sharif interacted with the JUI-F head Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the matter of APC and later he attended the party meeting at the Parliament building where Shehbaz Sharif was also brought. The meeting took decision of sending a delegation instead of the party quaid if the Maulana will hold an MPC on the PTI government. The PML-N, which in fact was supposed to take such initiative playing on the front foot, was also unaware of the agenda of the APC which however was called off as the other mainstream party PPP had also refused to send its top leadership to the conference.

On the Supreme Court decision in Aasia Bibi case, the PML-N took no hard and fast stance unlike the PPP which openly supported the Supreme Court decision and wanted protection of SC judges and Aasia. Last day, Khawaja Saad Rafique, speaking on the National Assembly floor, warned the government of the ‘religious card’ which he said, was previously played against them by the hidden hand and now it was going to be played against the rulers. The same day a PTI delegation also met Shehbaz and the PML-N legislators to seek help for framing a joint strategy to deal with the protests erupted after the SC decision. The PML-N appointed a focal person during the meeting like it was done by other parties.