LAHORE   -  The rejection by Vice President Maryam Nawaz of the Charter of Economy offer made by PML-N President Mian Shehbaz Sharif (and before him PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari) from the floor of the National Assembly has raised many questions about the powers of the party president and vice president.

Under the party constitution, it is the party president who is supposed to take decisions in accordance with the laid-down procedure – and the vice president, even if she happens to be the daughter of the party founder, and other party leaders are duty bound to follow what the party president says.

But Maryam distanced herself from the CoE offer and at a news conference on Saturday termed it a mockery of the economy. She also claimed that her father did not support such a charter.

Now that Shehbaz Sharif is also going to represent the party at the June 26 all-party conference being hosted by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, it will be interesting to know his stance on the CoE and his line of arguments.

Some analysts are of the view that Shehbaz Sharif is not a free agent and can’t be expected to have said anything from the floor of the house without the approval of his incarcerated elder brother. Both the brothers are in constant contact with each other.

Shehbaz Sharif’s idea of CoE and rejection by Maryam, ostensibly, is part of a well-thought-out strategy by the Sharif family. It may be aimed at sending wrong signals to the ruling party about differences in the Sharif family so that what is unacceptable to the former prime minister should be accepted by the PTI leadership without delay.

And in case talks start between the two sides on the contours of the charter, some tough conditions should be set by the PML-N leadership.

The Sharif family is united and can’t afford to go for a power war at this critical juncture. It is also not in Maryam’s interest to give an impression that Pakistan Muslim League of her father has now become Pakistan Maryam League. Shehbaz is a loyal brother and will remain so in future.

The present situation in the PML-N may be likened to what was seen in Iran when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was (and remains) the supreme leader and Muhammad Khatami was the president. The supreme leader was strongly opposed to the United States but president Khatami was very soft. There was an impression that the two top leaders were going in the opposite direction.

The writer visited Tehran to cover an OIC summit in December 1997. The approach of the president, as usual, was different from that of the supreme leader.

I asked an Iranian diplomat why the supreme leader and the president were not speaking the same language. In response, he likened this strategy to a pair of scissors whose two blades move in the opposite direction but cut whatever comes between them. The scissors can’t perform the same function if the blades don’t move in opposite directions, he argued.

Apparently, the same is the situation in the PML-N at present. Maryam and Shehbaz have the common enemy and they have to defeat him through whatever means it is possible.

Observers knowing the history of the Sharif family are convinced that no power race is going on between the Nawaz and Shehbaz families. They are working for the same objectives and are aware of the limits they have to work in.

As for the June 26 APC, it will be an important development on the political scene. The primary target of the moot is to bring all anti-government forces on the same platform. If all participants agree to a joint strategy in the days and weeks ahead, it will be a success for the organisers. But even if they didn’t, the moot will lay the foundation of a broad-based opposition alliance.

The JUI-F is trying to woo some ruling party allies. If the coalition maintains its unity, it will be in a better position to deal with the challenges to be posed by the opposition.