The grumblings surrounding the eerie silence of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leaders was getting louder, and the conspicuous absence of the Leader of the Opposition from the Parliament only amplified that silence even more.

That silence was finally broken by Maryam Nawaz on Thursday as she visited the residences of senior party leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ahsan Iqbal, and spoke to reporters of her continued resolve to “stand by civilian supremacy and the Constitution.” Carefully worded, her remarks do not specify what role would she be playing following her return, or if she would be returning to  active, public politics in the near future. However, her tone and tenor are unmistakable and her message is clear – the PML-N will continue standing by its original stance, and the slogan “vote ko izzat do.”

For the PML-N this announcement could have come none too soon, as cracks were beginning to appear the party’s otherwise solid edifice. The party needed to reclaim the role of the “leader of the opposition” politically more so than occupying the official parliamentary role. After such a statement it will be expected that all three – Maryam Nawaz, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ahsan Iqbal – will play a larger and more vocal part in the country’s politics.

It is vital that they do so. The Jamat Ulema-e-Islam -Fazal (JUI-F) tried to take up the mantle of leadership twice, going so far as to occupy parts of the capital in 2019, but could not ignite the public’s interest or support. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) assumed the role of default opposition, but it’s minimal presence in provinces apart from Sindh prevents it from being a bigger player. Left wing parties remain small and disunited, much like the many hardline religious groups.

Only the PML-N has the numbers and national outreach to be an effective opposition party. If the government can be criticized for shirking their duty, so can the opposition.