Three monumental events took place on Friday yesterday, which will determine Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s future in the roadmap of politics. Firstly, Nawaz Sharif, the party’s former ring-leader, was denied extension of bail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills Case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Secondly, PML-N announced major shake-ups in its political structure, replacing Shehbaz Sharif as the Chairman PAC and Opposition Leader by Rana Tanveer and Khawaja Asif respectively. Lastly, some indications have been made by the party that Shehbaz Sharif may be extending his stay in London due to medical reasons.

Perhaps the most influential and surprising of these is the restructuring of the PML-N.  The issue of the Chairmanship of PAC had caused the opposition and government to remain at loggerheads for weeks due to PML-N’s insistence that Shehbaz Sharif should be Chairman PAC.  The stalemate results in weeks of inactivity in the parliament due to PML-N refusing to make standing committees, which are needed in order to draft legislation and policy, and broke only when the government reluctantly gave in. Thus, after such a long struggle which nearly broke down the parliament, it is puzzling why the PML-N would so easily trade the hard-won position it had absolutely refused to compromise on a few months back.

Moreover, while Khawaja Asif, known for his fiery speeches, may make a better Opposition Leader than Shehbaz, it is definitely a game-changing move that such an important position is being shifted from a Sharif to a non-family member. As much as party workers may deny it, PML-N has always been very steady on the “N” part of its title- the party has always firmly ensured that the power reigns belong to the Sharif family. Shehbaz’s exit to London, and Nawaz’s pending return to jail, might be the first time that a Sharif family member does not hold an integral position in government and in the party.

Does the Sharifs’ absence from the leading platforms of the party indicate a shift of power within PML-N? Is the all-influential “N” of PML-N finally going to be snuffed out in exchange for a party of ideological workers instead? It is too soon to tell right now. What we can be sure of is that this restructuring of the party did not occur without a struggle and divide within the party. Perhaps, an inner dissatisfaction resulting in restructuring is the inevitable result of a leadership which adopts a silent approach and aims to go to London itself while most of its party members suffer the brunt of NAB’s accountability drive.