LAHORE - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) is still not out of fear of its members’ voting against the party decision in the presidential election as it happened in the election for the Punjab Assembly speaker when it had lost 12 votes to rival candidate Ch Pervez Elahi in the secret balloting.

The PML-N did make efforts to detect the rebels in the party immediately after the speaker’s election and succeeded in tracing them. However, after a huge protest inside and outside the Punjab Assembly on the day elections for the speaker were held, the party leadership in the Punjab Assembly, represented by Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Khawaja Salman, Khawaja Imran Nazir, Mujataba Shujaur Rehman and others at that time, rose to the occasion and made all the members take oath of showing loyalty to the party and follow its decision. This move worked to control the damage. The PML-N had alleged Ch Parvez Elahi had taken away its votes in the secret ballot. Although the phase of the speaker’s election is over, the fear still persists.

In the subsequent move, the party leadership took stock of the situation and held an inquiry. The inquiry committee, mostly quietly going with the process, suspected that a number of MPAs, also including the women elected on reserved seats, were among the rebels. But it failed to definitely name anyone voting for the rival candidate. Apprehension is still there as the election for President of Pakistan is taking place again through secret balloting.

Sources in the PML-N say the leadership has strictly asked the members to abide by the party discipline and follow its decisions. Leaving the question of win or loss in the election aside, the vote of its members to the rival candidate is creating tremendous embarrassment to the party. Therefore, in the presidential election the PML-N is even more careful and circumspect as it is not only the Punjab Assembly which saw defection in the speaker’s election, the National and the Senate are also in the picture for keeping a vigil eye on the members. However the party sources say at the level of the National Assembly and the Senate chances are bleak about ITS members voting the rival candidates, but Punjab is still a concern for which senior members are keeping a close eye on the suspects. And they say, the Punjab members as such are also not likely to go against the Party line. They say a very strict action awaits those members found showing loyalties to the opponent candidate in the Presidential election as the party is not ready to show leniency.

The PML-N takes very pride in its government performance in Punjab over the last 10 year and intends to make it basis to defeat the PTI government in the times to come, which will not only raise its image but also strengthen its political position. As such the PML-N wants to keep its own rank and file intact and does not want to show any sign of disarray within the PML-N.

In case the opposition remains divided, the victory of PTI candidate Dr Arif Alvi is certain. Even in the event of a certain defeat of its candidate, the PML-N is not willing to show weakness in the party, particularly in the Punjab it is its political base.