LAHORE - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz appears to be quietly decaying into a subservient political position largely due to the belated decisions and a lukewarm response from the leadership to the changed ground realities.
It appears the PML-N, even before formally perching on the opposition benches, has compromised on the ‘aggressive and vibrant’ role it had promised to play against the ruling party, the PTI, in the parliament.
The PML-N, being the second largest party after the PTI in the National Assembly and the winner of maximum number of seats in the Punjab, needed to carry weight and substance which has been found missing in the NA session and even before that.
After July 25 elections when the PML-N rejected the polls results and became part of the grand opposition, it was overshadowed by JUI-F which tried to resent the election rigging in an extreme manner, but it failed as PPP and PML-N wanted to show power inside the parliament.
The PML-N which has been embedded in the national politics with 30-year rule in Punjab and the Centre has been seen more on the background than playing on the front foot even on the opposition side. Its main leaders who were much vocal in the past appear to have retired to silence which amounts to surrendering space to the rivals.
This soft posture by the party forebodes its continuous downslide in the time to come that may scrape it to a non-entity when so many threats beset it from the political opponents and within, opine political observers on the PML-N leaders’ subdued behaviour in the National Assembly on the day of oath taking and belated awakening to its Quaid Nawaz Sharif’s travel to the trial court.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif was brought to the trial court in an armoured vehicle amid very tight security right at the moment when the members were taking oath of the parliament. Despite the fact that Nawaz Sharif is the true spirit of the PML-N and his incarceration has already cost heavily to the party in the elections, the leadership apparently gave a cold shoulder to the manner he was brought to the court. Except Pervez Rashid and a few others no-one was present near the court on that day when the people expected presence of a sizeable number of N leaders to boost morale of Sharif.
Earlier, the party men were prepared for taking a ‘vibrant and vocal’ stance in the parliament and for that matter other parties in the opposition camp were also consulted and taken into confidence. But the PML-N remained meek in the first meeting of the National Assembly which took the wind out of its sails on election rigging and claims of giving a tough time to the PTI.
The PML-N members strongly minded the said facts at the party meetings held subsequent to the oath taking in Islamabad and in the Punjab parliamentary party in Lahore. They highlighted the party position on this score and many of them termed it a compromise on the decision. In the same breath the members were much annoyed over the manner the former prime minister was brought to the trial court.
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, sensing pulse of the moment and harsh mood of the party men, wrote to the caretaker prime minister to seek a respectable travel for the three-time prime minister to the court. Shehbaz Sharif also announced to personally lead the parliamentarians to the court venue before elections for the speaker and the deputy speaker Wednesday to receive Nawaz Sharif.
Sources in the party say a quiet resentment existed among the members on this attitude of the leadership and if no damage control is done, the situation may become serious in the time to come.
The party performance vis-à-vis its working relationship with the PPP is also not encouraging. The party is so far not certain about getting the PPP vote for Shehbaz Sharif in the prime ministerial elections after a long trust deficit between the two. Observers say the PPP is still haunted by the past when Shehbaz Sharif passed very strong words against its leader Asif Ali Zardari and ditched him when he was in dire need of the N help after making utterances against the establishment in 2015. And also the way the PML-N used it when PTI dharna threatened prime ministerial office of Nawaz Sharif. The PML-N has not been able even to get a clear-cut commitment from the PPP on getting vote of its seven Punjab MPAs in the CM election. This all is eclipsing its posture as a mainstream party that may also lessen its chance to clinch the opposition leadership and save it from internal problems.
If the party continues to play a second fiddle, it will also provide a tailored-made situation to the PTI in the Punjab, the mainstay of the PML-N to bolster its position. The PTI has named Ch Pervaiz Elahi as the Punjab Assembly speaker.
Elahi, a political past master, knows governance in the Punjab inch by inch as he has held the CM slot during Musharraf era and as deputy prime minister during the PPP rule. PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi also has good penetration in the PML-N ranks as most of them left his camp before 2013 elections. The Chaudhry of Gujrat who loves to practice reconciliatory politics has close friends and relations in the PML-N. As such reports are there that he can create a forward bloc in the PML-N. If Pervaiz Elahi’s move succeeds, it will not only be a tit for tat and indirect benefit to the PTI government but also to his own party, besides being a big dent to the PML-N. The sources say the PTI assessing the worth of Elahi on that count is taking time in naming the Punjab CM as it wants such a CM as can act cordially and in close liaison with him. Elahi claims that many of the N-League MPAs are with him. Observers say the number of votes he gets for the office of speakership will clear the picture and outline the success of his future planning. And if his plan clicks, it will serve a big blow to the N-League.