LAHORE - The back to back mutinous moves by the PML-N leaders is pointing to the growing cracks in the party – the latest one coming from PML-N stalwart in Lahore politics, Zaeem Hussain Qadri. The tide of time appears to be running against this mainstream political entity at a time when the general elections are around the corner.

The developments taking place around PML-N tearing and the buzz of disgruntled elements are painting the Sharifs themselves as the source of all trouble, former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif being an exception however.

As for the Sharifs, they are unsettled due to the serious condition of Begum Kalsoom and therefore unable to properly manage the party affairs – amid a general perception that establishment is making all possible moves to reduce them to political minions. Former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, who had 35 years affiliation with the PML-N and enjoyed the reputation of being a chum of Nawaz Sharif, started ruffling his feathers after Maryam Nawaz came to political forestage following the disqualification of her prime minister-father on July 28 by the Supreme Court.

The tirade of Nawaz and Maryam against the top judiciary and their suggestions that army was trying to stamp PML-N out displeased Ch Nisar – who kept advising the party leadership to not go for an open clash with the two key state institutions.

The Dawn leak episode and the question of making the report on it public exacerbated the situation, and the gulf between Nawaz and Nisar continued to widen with the passage of time despite efforts by Shehbaz Sharif to bridge the gap. The drop scene came a few days ago when Ch Nisar was not awarded party ticket for the election and he announced to contest independently.

At a corner meeting the other day in his constituency, Chikri, Nisar appeared quite critical of his old buddy, Nawaz Sharif – who, on his part, also showed coldness about Nisar when a question was asked to him by a media person in London the same evening.

Towing a similar line, Zaeem Qadri – who declared himself as the real defender and mouthpiece of PML-N Punjab – has targeted Hamza Shahbaz and his father Shehbaz Sharif. Announcing that he will contest the polls as an independent, he said his real contest will be with Hamza and his ‘shoe polishers’.

In his 20 years of active affiliation with the PML-N, this was the first time so much foam was seen in his mouth against the party leaders, particularly Hamza.

It is also not too far in the past when Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khosa had formally parted ways with the PML-N, although he had developed differences with the Sharifs much earlier, in 2015, over what he said their policies about the party and autocratic attitude for promoting dynastic politics. The same grievance was also raised by the PML-N Sindh leader Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, who has also left the party.

A number of PML-N electables, particularly from southern Punjab, have left the PML-N, which is facing a serious crisis in Jhang district where reportedly all the party electables have ditched it to either join the rivals or contest as independents. Prominent among them are ex-MNA Ghulam Bibi Bharvana and Sahibzada Nazir Sultan.

Similarly, ex-MNA Ghulam Rasool Sahi and former speaker Afzal Sahi from Faisalabad too have followed the suit and joined the PTI. Former MPA Azam Cheela, Ghulam Ahmed Gadi, Sheikh Yaqoob, Rashida Yaqoob, Aslam Bharvana, Asif Kathia and Chaudhry Shehbaz have also parted ways with the party and switched over to Imran Khan’s party.

From southern Punjab, five PML-N MNAs – Khusro Bakhtiar, Tahir Bashir Cheema, Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, Rana Muhammad Qasim Noon and Makhdumzada Basit Bokhari – joined PTI. Former MNA Ghulam Abbasi Qureshi and former MPAs Meher Mohammad Aslam Bharwana, Mian Muzaffar Mehmood, Rana Shahbaz Ahmad Khan and Mian Asif Kathia too have left the N-League and joined the rivals.

Former PML-N MNA from Sialkot Chaudhry Akhlaq also quit the party along with Sheikh Atique and others. From Lodhran, ex-MNAs Akhtar Kanju and Zawar Warraich, and former MPA Qasim Khan Malaizai as well as Ahmad Nawaz Joiya have left the PML-N. Nawab Abu Bakar Talpur of PML-N from Sindh has also quit.

The latest desertion that came from Qadri is a big blow for the PML-N and its leadership. Though he is no match to the like of Chaudhry Nisar in terms of political stature and influence, still he is important as his sphere of influence falls in heart of Punjab – Lahore – which is going to be a crucial battleground. Lahore is what the PML-N takes pride in as its citadel where the party government spent massively to showcase it to the voters for keeping its grip on the city. But in the fast changing situation, the PML-N could suffer big setbacks here too.

If Lahore is lost, the Punjab is lost, thus goes the maxim.