PML-N needs acumen to counter mounting challenges

LAHORE – What scenario is going to emerge in the political landscape of the country in the months to come depends on the wisdom and strategy PML-N and its government will adopt to ease the pressure created by the court cases and their political rivals.

Standing in the middle of the NAB references and Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharifs, the PML-N and the government are facing serious challenges, so their strong desire is holding of timely elections in mid 2018 in the country and to emerge victorious by keeping the party vote bank intact.

Although PML-N is quite optimistic about the elections being held in time next year, a national government of technocrats, delay in elections or a media-coined term ‘compulsive intervention are also feared in the prevailing political scenario. In view of the observers and media reports, the paramount need at the moment is to avoid a constitutional deadlock that is likely to stoke an environment that could bring about what should necessarily be avoided in the interest of timely polls. Disagreement on amendment for fresh delimitations, trust vote demand from the PM or the state of emergency for smooth sailing of the accountability process, they believe, hold constitutionally built-in susceptibility for a change. None of the said issues has appeared so far, yet fault lines for their emergence exist within the PML-N and outside, so both need to control their temper and act sanely, they add.

The court cases against the Sharifs are going to be the major factor which, in view of the observers, is going to boost or shatter confidence of the party and its government, forcing them to respond to the situation with that mind.

The PML-N leadership met in the city and the Jati Umra house of the Sharifs under the chairmanship of Nawaz Sharif for days to work out strategy to meet the situation.

The reports obtained by the media about these meetings don’t paint a rosy picture on the opinions expressed by the participants, both dovish and hawkish in their thoughts. The overall impression of the meetings so far held shows variegated positions adopted by the participants, so the question as to what course should exactly be adopted, either harsh or soft, remained unanswered. Reports also leaked about the groups in the party as one was giving preference to protect the party and the government instead of the individuals and against this view were those swayed by the idea of protecting the individuals. How much these reports carry weight would be answered by the time to come from the kind of contents Nawaz Sharif would present in the series of his public interaction beginning from a rally on November 19 in Abbotabad. Side by side giving a line to the party, the speeches of the former premier can also be adumbrative of the effect the party government and other parties will receive and position themselves accordingly. Since the former PM and his daughter Maryam Nawaz still feel badly stung by the court verdict on disqualification and its directions to the NAB, there is a little likelihood about their adopting any other course sans the existing one as they are facing criminal trials having many objections about the procedural and legal sides of the cases.

The PML-N government found a major breakthrough on Monday last when the CCI members represented by the chief ministers of all the provinces fell on the same line for constitutional amendment on the fresh delimitation of the constituencies in the light of the fresh census. The Sindh’s reservations about the census in certain blocks in Karachi would be addressed through audit. This indeed is a big sigh of relief for the federal government after it suffered a strong fear of delay in the next elections for lack of political consensus on the amendment. The same mind of all on the amendment shows all parties want elections in time although PTI insisted on early polls that failed to carry requisite political favour. Holding of early polls is logically not plausible since the Election Commission needs at-least eight to nine months to complete the process of delimitations, to update electoral rolls and resolve other allied matters. The demand for early polls sounds a far cry as the Census 2017 has become effective for all practical purposes for the next elections. If delimitations carried out in 2002 are followed for early elections, it may not only conflict with the new census but also bring about a constitutional deadlock. Albeit care is needed to be taken while amending the constitution to protect the present census against judicial scrutiny as it is provisional and not final for authenticating the fresh delimitations.

Despite achieving success on the amendment, the PML-N ordeal is not over. The scenario is emerging in the country wherein accountability of the corrupt is taking roots in the public mind as the first priority before the polls. Presently, the Sharifs are tied to the process of accountability at the trial court and the apex court level, yet the public mind is fast growing on the need of holding every corrupt accountable. And the situation for the PML-N is diametrically different from what it was in September 2014 during the PTI dharna when all other parties in the parliament rallied round the PML-N and Nawaz Sharif to protect the government and his stay in the office. Today PPP stands apart, ANP and PkMAP are not in the picture while the third PML-N supporter JUI-F is not sure about the timely elections.

Along with the political parties on the opposing side of the government, reportedly, a segment in the PML-N is watching the situation closely and quietly. And how they would act depends mainly on acumen of the PML-N leadership to ensure holding of the elections on time and take other suitable measures. And next couple of weeks will give the answer to all that.

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