LAHORE - The PML-N in the given scenario on the national political landscape is struggling to avoid leadership crisis, the danger of which looms large after SC observations on Islamabad High Court order that had released party Quaid Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz and suspended their sentence in Avenfield reference on Sept 19.

Although remarks and observations of a judge cannot be taken as a final judgment or a true reflection of the ultimate court decision, it do cause worry among the quarters concerned – especially when the matter relates to the liberty of its top leadership.

The former prime minister is not speaking to the media as openly as he was doing before July 6 decision of the trial court; however, the party sources say his presence as a free man is a big boost to the party members and the workers.

The PML-N members are not openly commenting on the Supreme Court observation, yet they appear visibly apprehensive about a possible misfortune for their Quaid and his daughter which may land them back in the jail after enjoying a two months breather.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif is also in NAB custody. And the party direly needs to have at least one of the two elder Sharifs to remain among them to deal with the existing political situation. Though it is also a reality that the charisma of the Sharifs runs so deep into the party that their next generation comprising Hamza and Maryam also enjoys mass backing for leadership role.

But then Hamza is also facing NAB probe for assets beyond means and his fate remains uncertain.

Two other central leaders – Khwaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khwaja Salman Rafique – too are in the dock. The NAB has openly said it will capture them once their protective bail is called back by the Lahore High Court - which is due to take up the matter again on November 14.

Shehbaz Sharif enjoyed attendance in the National Assembly session till November 9 on the production order from the Speaker during which he also presided over party meetings and took decisions relating to the coming Senate election for two seats and formation of Party Organising Committee led by Ahsan Iqbal. But he acted very reservedly and with little freedom in the Leader of the Opposition chamber in Islamabad, and now his break from the NAB investigation is over.

Meanwhile, Hazma Shehbaz – who is leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly – is well managing the party in the province and keeping the cauldron against the government boiling. The party legislators are much satisfied with his performance - particularly after he retrieved the 12 votes, which the N League blamed, were stolen from the party in the Punjab Speaker election.

Hamza’s arrest by NAB may therefore dampen the party activity in the Punjab as his lieutenants like Rana Mashhood Ahmad and Khwaja Nazir may not do much against the giants like Ch Pervez Elahi and PTI stalwarts like Aleem Khan.

At the central level, the party has set up a five-member committee at the head of former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to run the party affairs under instructions for the Sharifs.

Recently this committee took the important decisions on the way it would cooperate with the government on taking action against the miscreants who took the law into hand on the issue of Aasia Bibi acquittal by the Supreme Court.

It also spoke on the cases against Shehbaz Sharif and the NAB DG disclosures about Shehbaz-Fawad meeting and in defence of Khwaja brothers after NAB’s arrest statement about them.

The efficacy of party stance however would have been much more had there been any of the Sharifs leading it instead of others. As such political observers say the party is making efforts to keep up the visage of a strong leadership but that it is hard to get without the Sharifs.

Besides legal matters, PML-N has many other important tasks at hand – including deeply looking into the decisions and hitherto performance of the PTI government that will provide an opportunity to the opposition party to highlight what it did in its own terms. And if the PML-N narrative carried conviction, it naturally would have traction among the masses and help put the party in a stronger political position.

The PML-N is also up against the internal challenges of keeping the legislators integrated and under one command, besides protecting more of its leaders going into the jaws of accountability.