Hard times expose your real friends; in the wake of the Panama case, even a party as hard-line as PML-N began to see somewhat of a mutiny within its ranks, and the leader of the rebellion, the et tu Brutus, was none other than Nisar Ali Khan, Nawaz’s (once) right hand man.

Thursday marked the first time that the former interior minister has disagreed so vehemently with Nawaz Sharif in public. Nisar Ali Khan  directly attacked former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, asking him to be “thankful” to those who had helped him attain the present position in politics. The former minister also criticised Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz’s ‘fiery speeches’.

Nisar’s disarray into disagreement with Nawaz Sharif started after the JIT report, which lay out in detail Sharif’s assets beyond means. Since then, Nisar’s hostility has amplified, particularly after Nawaz and Maryam’s confrontational approach against the judiciary.

However, up till now, Nisar had still never directly targeted Nawaz yet. He still remained a member of PML-N, and his criticism was also softened under the facade of giving well meaning advice; the target of Nisar’s attack was Maryam Nawaz, who represented the new approach of PML-N, of being unapologetically anti-judiciary and anti-establishment. This time however, Nisar, for the first time, directly attacks Nawaz in his tirade, an action which is indicative that Nisar has finally burnt the bridge between him and PML-N.

Nisar’s future and role in the party have been under a fair bit of ambiguity, with neither the party not the politician making any moves to seek clarity on the matter. This recent bout of criticism implies not just Nisar’s departure, but also a speculative split in the party ranks. Nawaz and Maryam’s anti-judiciary tirade has revealed a fundamental difference of ideology within the party; it appears one camp of the party prefers the silent, go-getter, complying with the establishment approach of Shahbaz Sharif rather than Nawaz’s all-out mass campaign.

It will be interesting to see whether Nisar’s departure will lead to a tipping of the scales of the split faction within the PML-N, which until now had remained relatively subdued. On one hand, with the upcoming decision of the accountability trials, and the elections, where Shahbaz will be the front-runner, are good conditions for the pro-establishment faction grow. On the other hand, Nawaz’s anti-judiciary tirade has proved popular with voters, implying that Nawaz is not just a liability that the party could sacrifice