LAHORE     -   Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) indecision to join Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) planned Azadi March or not has given rise to speculations about sharp divisions within the party.

Reports of dissensions within the PML-N hit the TV screens on Thursday after Shehbaz Sharif could not go to prison to see his brother reportedly due to backache. Party sources, however, said that doctors had advised him bed rest.

Sequel to decisions taken at party’s CEC meeting on Wednesday, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif was scheduled to meet with party Quaid and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif at Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday. He was also supposed to make a final announcement about his party’s participation in the Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s sit-in or otherwise on the advice of the party Quaid.

But this did not happen on Thursday, which fueled rumours in the media about possible differences between the two brothers.

It was even more intriguing to see the PML-N leadership disowning a statement by Captain (R)Safdar, who quoted Nawaz Sharif as having told him that PML-N will join the Azadi March, which, he said, was more about liberation of Kashmir and supremacy of the constitution than anything else.

PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal told The Nation that either he or the PML-N president would make party’s official statement on the march. He, however, declined to comment when asked about timing of this particular statement.

Ahsan was asked if the party took the ownership of a statement made by Captain (r) Safdar that PML-N would participate in Maulana’s long march on the directions of Nawaz Sharif.

In his media talk after meeting Nawaz at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Safdar said: “Nawaz Sharif has said that everyone who loves Pakistan will support Maulana Fazalur Rehman’s Azadi March.” He also said: “Everyone who loves Nawaz Sharif will go and join the sit-in.”

Nawaz’s son-in-law further stated that 220 million people planned to join the Azadi March. “It is phase-II of Pakistan Movement. It will lead to Kashmir’s liberation,” Safdar boasted.

Asked if the PML-N would also take part in the sit-in, he replied, “If the PML-N is also part of 220 million people, then definitely it will participate in the sit-in. Every one believing in Allah (The Almighty) and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) will go to Islamabad,” he claimed.

He said Nawaz had assured Maulana more than once that his party would be part of his long march.

When asked who would lead the march, he said, “Maulana will lead the prayers and others will follow him. I will also do the same.”

When a reporter asked him to comment on the criticism that Maulana had his own personal agenda to fulfill, Safdar replied, “Maulana’s agenda is Jihad-e-Kashmir and the constitution.”

He expressed his optimism that the planned sit-in will achieve the desired results.

Also, a senior PML-N leader and former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair told a news channel on Thursday that the party would participate in the sit-in. “I think a decision has been taken to join the Azadi March,” he said.

Zubair also said that Safdar’s statement should be taken as Nawaz Sharif’s statement. “Captain (r) Safdar is one of the few persons who are in contact with Nawaz Sharif,” he said, and added that details of Wednesday’s party meeting had been conveyed to Nawaz.

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb on Thursday dispelled the impression of divisions in the party, terming them a ‘conspiracy’ to damage the party.

She said reports about differences between Shehbaz and Nawaz were false and baseless. She reiterated that the decision about party’s participation in the long march would be announced by Shehbaz Sharif in consultation with Nawaz Sharif.

She said all efforts to create dissensions in the PML-N would end in smoke. Maryam also clarified that no committee had been formed to hold Safdar accountable for his statement.

Talking to a private TV channel on Thursday night, Marriyum Aurangzeb said the final decision regarding taking part in JUI-F’s long march will be made on Friday (today) or Saturday (tomorrow).