History has taught us that whenever a king leaves a lacuna for power, vicious bloodshed follows, usually among families. Let’s hope that the same fate does not befall the Sharif family, which has had whispers of a conflict following it for quite some time.

It seems that the rumoured split in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) cuts across the younger generation of the Sharif family as well. Despite Maryam Nawaz’s reassurance on Twitter that all is fine and dandy, Hamza Shahbaz’s slight upon the party’s approach is telling of the differences between the Shahbaz-Nawaz camps. Hamza Shahbaz called for ending the politics of confrontation and said such policies could damage the system.

Hamza’s comments are an often-repeated criticism of Maryam’s rhetoric, which is heavily anti-judiciary and hints at conspiracies of institutions. Hamza’s statement represents the large ideological differences that have always existed between Shahbaz and Nawaz. These differences have exacerbated now, with the Panama Judgment and Nawaz’s approach becoming increasingly anti-establishment, and Shahbaz encouraging cooperation with institutions.

Despite his disagreements with Nawaz, Shahbaz however has shown unwavering loyalty to his brother throughout and even now, stayed mum. However, it seems that the anti-judiciary stances advocated by Maryam Nawaz might be too much even for him. While a brother is willing to stay quiet for loyalty, a nephew might not be so eager.  Hamza Shahbaz’s public statements show a fraction of the party’s annoyance with the recent approach and with the leadership of Maryam. As evidenced by a statement of Riaz Pirzada, Inter-Provincial Coordination, who argued that Shahbaz Sharif should lead the party, there seems to be controversy with Maryam being chosen to lead the NA-120 by-elections over hardened and seasoned politicians like Hamza. These series of snubs by Nawaz to Shahbaz further caused worsening of relations between the Sharif brothers.

It can be argued that Shahbaz has always been the more prudent brother, and his stance is more far-sighted and sensible this time too. There is probability that the next elections belong to PML-N and clashes with the institutions would create much trouble for a future government, especially if Shahbaz sees himself as the next Prime Minister. By advising Nawaz to be neutral, Shahbaz is saving his brother, his party, himself and perhaps even democracy itself.

A Nawaz and Shahbaz split spells bad news for the country, as well as his most ardent PML-N critics. If Nawaz continues his anti-establishment tirade, coupled with a split with his brother, it could mean a forceful quashing of the whole party. Love them or hate them, PML-N is instrumental to the future of the democratic process.