ISLAMABAD - In the wake of upcoming general elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and stepped up criticism by the opposition parties against the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leadership and its policies, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in consultation with his close aides has given go-ahead to the party’s leadership to come up with a befitting response to the opposition’s onslaught against the party.

The coming days ruling PML-N would be upping the ante against opposition parties including PPP and PTI at all levels, a senior PML-N leader, who is part of the election campaign of the party in AJK, informed The Nation yesterday. He added that the party’s policy to go soft on PPP leadership had adversely affected the party’s campaign in AJK.

The sources in the party informed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already called the select party leaders and cabinet colleagues in Raiwind today to discuss host of issues including the upcoming elections in AJK scheduled for July 21. The sources said that the issues like the deadlock on Panama leaks ToRs, the legal, constitutional and political implication of the disqualification references filed against the Prime Minister and his family members with Election Commission of Pakistan, the imminent protest by joint opposition against the government, appointment of CEC provincial members, the party’s internal rifts and the developments in the follow-up of skirmishes with neighbouring Afghanistan on erecting gates at Turkhum border would likely to figure in this meeting.

The sources further informed that initially it was decided that the party leaders would hit back to the PTI criticism but in case of PPP it was decided to go soft and even the party leaders refrained from hitting back over the harshest criticism coming from the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari against the person of Prime Minister and his party. Even the party had not responded to Bilawal’s dubbing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as friend of Modi, but now it was decided to pay them back in the same coin, a source in the party confirmed.

The sources further informed the managers of the party campaign in AJK including Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ch. Barjees Tahir and others were informed by the party’s AJK chapter leaders that going soft on PPP would be affecting the party candidates’ campaign and they have to respond to the venomous criticism of PPP leadership otherwise they would be losing ground in the elections.

So after series of consultative meetings the party leadership made Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agree to the point that instead of pocketing the criticism from opposition parties, mainly PPP, the PML-N leadership should hit back to the criticism and allegations coming from opposition parties at all levels. The sources in the PML-N said that till the AJK elections the ruling PML-N would step up its criticism on PPP leadership and in response to the opposition’s allegation of corruption on Prime Minister and holding of probe into Panama leaks the PML-N ministers would come up with the counter charges of corruption of former president Asif Ali Zardari and would bring in questions about Surrey Palace and Swiss accounts of former first couple.

The sources in the ruling PML-N said that the party would try to win these elections and form government in AJK as in case of any setback to the party in these elections the pressure on PML-N government would mount on Panama leaks probe as the defeat would be attributed to the scandal.