LAHORE - The Senate elections have shown internal weaknesses and cracks in the ruling PML-N which is struggling to win the slot of the Senate chairman.

Reports suggest the PML-N leadership was already wary of the danger about its members drifting away from the party line at the time of polling for the senate seats in Punjab. Though the leadership did its best to minimise risk through various plans in the Punjab elections, it found 11 of its MPAs supporting PPP candidate Nadeem Afzal Chann who was much sanguine before the election and hoped to give a surprise. Chan’s optimism at the party level was interpreted as some underhand deal with the MPAs, particularly from South Punjab, who are around 82. Given the background of the strained relationship between PML-N Senator Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khosa, a veteran politician from Dera Ghazi Khan, with the party leadership coupled with the fact that South Punjab was deprived of a Senate ticket, it was feared that certain members would not follow the party line in the polls. A party source said defection of 11 members to PPP was alarming for the party. This number would have risen had Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, right on his return from Saudi Arabia, not spent two hours at his assembly chamber to keep abreast of the situation. In addition, Hamza Shahbaz monitored activity of the members to ensure the party MPAs did not change loyalties.

The prime minister, before leaving for Saudi Arabia, had constituted committees for every division of the Punjab to make sure that the MPAs cast votes as per the decision. Despite it 11 MPAs went to the opposite side, showing their resentment and dissatisfaction with the party leadership.

Though deviation of the 11 MPAs has not affected success of the PML-N in the Senate elections, it has a big significance in terms of future politics of the party which largely depends on the Punjab. Taking a prompt action, a committee has been set up to identify the rebels and two of them have reportedly been detected, who have admitted they had gone against the party because of receiving no support from the party high command against criminal cases against them.

Reports say PML-N President Nawaz Sharif has also been informed of this situation and he is likely to hold a meeting of the party stalwarts on this issue soon.

The second surprise came to the Sharifs in Sindh where the PML-F candidate who enjoyed support of six PML-N MPAs failed to get even 18 votes. He could only get 13 votes despite the fact that three candidates from Sindh have been accommodated against the Punjab seats in the upper house. In Sindh the party had entered into an alliance with PML-F in the general elections. These parties also had stalwarts like Liaquat Ali Jatoi, Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim and Mumtaz Bhutto, but they are not with PML-N at present. Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa and former Sindh CM Ghous Ali Shah stand disgruntled with the party leadership and are poised to form a united Muslim League, bringing together all Leagues to a single platform. In this scenario what response would come from Khosa at the time of the Senate chairman election is another big question.

In Balochistan, PML-N faced a big upset in the form of defeat of Sardar Yaqub Khan Nasir. Tilt of independent Yousaf Badini who emerged winner is towards PPP. The party also had a bad shot about JUI-F which did not go with PML-N wholeheartedly and leaned towards PPP to enable this party to get a seat in KP.

PML-N is facing a difficult situation in Balochistan where it is struggling to win support of all partners in the government which needs magic figure of 53 to win the slot of the Senate chairman. This appears herculean task as PPP is ahead of it by one seat and also enjoys support of four main parties. The election of Fata members can work wonder for the N-League.

Political observers say the Senate elections have raised tally of PML-N, but they are a message for the party leadership to take stock of the situation and know why it is losing ground and why seasoned politicians are angry. It is also noteworthy that the central executive committee of the party did not meet before and after the May 2013 elections.