LAHORE - The general election to be held towards the end of July on the completion of the existing assemblies’ term will be one of the most important ballots, especially because of the important changes ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif plans to bring about in the current system. He has already said that the election will be a referendum on his agenda.
Ousted by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, he has already made it clear that he wants annulment of his disqualification, disbandment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and, as reported by media quoting various sources, give parliament a role in the appointment of judges and military officials beyond certain ranks. Clearly, it is an agenda to “conquer” all major state institutions. It will be an election against the establishment, the judiciary and rival parties like the PTI and the PPP.
What are the chances of the PML-N succeeding in its plans? Will it get enough public support despite a very damaging statement made by the former prime minister against the state of Pakistan? The ill-timed statement – that implicates Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks – amounts to Mr Sharif shooting in his foot, and causing an irreparable damage to the party, which is already passing through a very difficult phase because of defections.
The political situation will further turn against the PML-N and more leaders will part ways with it once courts give decisions in cases against Mr Sharif and other party leaders.
Now, let’s see what the PML-N will have to do to be able to achieve the targets set by the former prime minister.
These targets can be achieved only if the party is in a position to amend the Constitution, for which purpose it will need a two-thirds majority in both houses of the bicameral legislature. The Senate comprises 104 seats and the National Assembly 342.
A total of 69 senators’ and 226 MNAs’ support (295 parliamentarians in total) is needed to have any amendment passed.
In case the required support is available in one house but not the other, a joint session of parliament can also be called for the purpose. And if two thirds majority of the total strength of the parliament back the move, it will sail through.
According to the latest party position in the Senate, the PML-N has a total of 33 members there. Assuming that the JUI-F, PkMAP and MQM also stand by the PML-N, the party will have another four plus five plus five members, respectively, of these parties. And since the JUI-F is now part of the MMA, of which the Jamaat-i-Islami is also a constituent, the latter is also expected to follow the former (although the JI has totally different views on Nawaz Sharif’s agenda). This means another two senators will be seen with the PML-N. This means the party of the former prime minister, now headed by his brother Shehbaz Sharif, will have a support of 49 members of the upper house.
In other words, the PML-N will not be in a position to get an amendment passed from the Senate. This will make a joint session unavoidable where the PML-N will need the support of at least 246 MNAs to make up the required majority. Will it be possible for the party to get this much support in the prevailing situation?
Apparently, it is an uphill task. It will be difficult for the party to find enough electables for the election.
But if the party still gets enough seats in the coming election and also manages to keep other parties with it to pass the required amendments, it will be a miracle - a revolution.
Things will start crystallizing in the days ahead. Decisions to be taken by the National Security Committee meeting today to discuss the former prime minister’s statement may also be an indication of the shape of things to come.