Rocky year for PML-N, great challenges ahead
The sun of year 2017 is setting down leaving many challenges and changes in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz after unity of the party rank and file and internal vacuum continued to stare it in the face as major question throughout.
The ordeal started from the very first day of the outgoing year lasted till the end when the party was oscillating between the aspirations of its President to launch Tehrike Adal (movement of justice) to vent his fury against the judiciary and the serious threats of split from within on the point of Khatme Nabuwat. The party president and his children faced serious allegations of corruption before the Accountability Court till the end of 2017 and the situation emerged out it not only divided the party theoretically on the role of institutions towards the party leadership but also exposed the grouping.
If the outgoing year was hard on anyone it was none other the former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his family members. The dark shadows of Panama leaks continued to cast over the Sharif family and loomed large as the year progressed. They showed direct bearing on the government and party integrity bringing about drastic changes in both.
The Sharifs fought on the Panama on dual front–before the Apex Court and in the political arena, where the PTI and JI with AML’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmad remained a hard nut to crack. The hardship of the Sharifs aggravated in the background cancer ailment of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz.
The paramount development on the national political scene was disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as member of the Parliament by the Supreme Court on July 28 which instantly divested him of the prime minister office. This decision jolted the PML-N when Nawaz Sharif was also denuded of his Party President slot.
Prior to July 28, the split of 2 to 3 by the five-member Supreme Court on the qualification of Nawaz Sharif as Sadiq and Ameen in terms of Articles 62 and 63 on April 20, kept the party leadership ill at ease. In April 20 verdict Nawaz Sharif was survived as PM by the Court, yet he faced persecution by the political rivals which demanded him to step down if not on legal but on moral grounds. The SC in its decision traced affinity of Nawaz Sharif with a Hollywood classical character ‘Godfather’ to depict his person as authoritarian and above the law. Without qualifying Nawaz Sharif, three other members on the Bench sought the JIT probe into the allegations against Nawaz Sharif and his children for their own satisfaction before reaching any final conclusion. Nawaz Sharif and his children, and relations appeared before the JIT and the outcome was an aggressive outburst of rage against the SC and the JIT by the Sharifs and the leaders in their group. Later proceeding with suo moto contempt of court proceedings against a party senator Nehal Hashmi, the Apex Court again pinched the N leadership with the remarks of ‘Sicilian mafia’ as Hashmi had openly threatened the members of the JIT. This further fuelled the situation on the PML-N part.
After disqualification verdict, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was named to replace his elder brother Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister. Later Shehbaz Sharif was retained as CM Punjab, reportedly, after a dominant opinion developed to this end in the party in view of his services for the province. Nawaz Sharif nominated his highly confidant Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the prime minister at a time when his own retention of party head was under threat. Nawaz Sharif was obliged to quit the party office to let a Balochistan based party leader, Sardar Yaqboob Nasir to become the N head as stopgap arrangement. In a dramatic move, the PPP majority Senate carried a constitutional amendment in the electoral reform which got easily passed through NA to also pave way for Nawaz Sharif for reinstatement as PML-N president which was carried out instantly. This legislation also generated Khatme Nabuwat issue which still hovers over the government although Khatme Nubawat oath has been reverted to its original through the Parliament.
A four-day long GT Road travel of disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leading a long caravan from Islamabad to Lahore wrote a new history of Nawaz Sharif’s popularity. Nawaz Sharif at various points enroute to Lahore scathingly lashed out at the Judiciary and the establishment in his speech to instil a conspiracy behind his ouster in the public mind. He announced to lead a ‘revolution for restoring sanctity of the ballot’ which he believed has been trampled by the said institutions during 70 years history of the country. Later victory of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz in NA-120 Lahore election, and Khaqani’s unconditional trust and support, became a big morale booster for Nawaz Sharif. The situation also brought up his daughter Maryam Nawaz as leading politician of the country after she proved her worth in NA-120 victory of her mother and role in the formation of Khaqani cabinet.
Against this backdrop, voices against Nawaz Sharif also continued overtly and covertly. Senior leader of the party and old buddy Ch Nisar Ali Khan took an independent view on Maryam’s politics while another Riaz Hussain Peerzada wanted Shehbaz Sharif to take over as party head. His point of view elicited mixed reaction in the Party. At fag end of year, Nawaz Sharif announced Shehbaz Sharif as party candidate for the prime minitership after the next election while Ch Nisar saw the party passing through a critical phase that needed sagacious decisions to meet the besetting challenges.
The publication of Model Town Inquiry report on the court directions lined up the Opposition parties behind PAT which had lost 14 of its workers on June 17, 2014 in a shootout by police outside Minhajul Quran Secretariat. Led by Dr Tahirul Qadri, the PAT demanded resignation of CM Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan. The PML-N has denied the demand and is gearing up to meet the dharna protest which Dr Qadri has announced to hold against the Punjab government.
The other challenge to the party is from Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi of Sial Sharif, who has been long affiliated with the PML-N and along with his large following, inclusive of member assembly, have now parted ways on Khatme Nabuwat issue. Pir Sialvi has announced to launch a movement for the resignation of Rana Sana whom he regards as sympathizer of Ahmadis. The Pir has gathered huge support from the religious segment and after tendering resignation by three MPAs on his call, he has announced to send more resignations to the Speaker. The situation is indeed serious for the party and the party government.
The PML-N is also grappling with the challenge of ensuring timely elections next year as their conduct is still eclipsed by various political and other reasons.
In 2018, the PML-N and its President Nawaz Sharif are up against serious challenges and uncertainties that are open to work up any big change any time at any level.