LAHORE - Mian Nawaz Sharif was always known for a very rigid thinking. Once he makes up his mind on any issue, he doesn’t change it so easily, no matter how much damage such an approach causes.

But now he appears to be a changed person, who is flexible in his views and is willing to change strategies to meet the requirements of the given situation. He can sacrifice even ideology when the power seems to be within reach.

The PML-N president’s decision to form election alliances with his rivals like Pakistan Muslim League (Functional), the National People’s Party and the JUI-F are indicative of a sea change in his thinking.

This will strengthen his party’s position in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and help it regain the lost ground.

The late Pir Pagra, the founder of the PML(Functional), the late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi , the founder of the National People’s Party, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of the JUI-F have always been against Mr Sharif. Their willingness to join hands with their staunch opponent is nothing short of a breakthrough, provided they honour the commitments announced through the media.

Pir Ali Mardan Shah (the late Pir Pagara) had been opposed to Mr Sharif since the days he was the Punjab chief minister in the ‘80s.

He supported a group of rebels which was out to pull down the government of Mr Sharif after the 1985 elections. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, now deputy prime minister, Sardar Nasrullah Khan Dreshak, and the late Malik Allah Yar Khan were among the rebels.  When they parted ways with Mr Sharif one by one, Pir Pagara started believing that the days of Mr Sharif in power had been numbered. He said in the media that he had punctured Mr Sharif’s sack and now grains would continue to fall (till the sack is depleted).

Then president and CMLA Gen Ziaul Haq was backing his political disciple from Punjab. He rushed to Lahore on a damage control mission, met with the rebels and gave them the necessary message. And then before returning to Islamabad, he told journalists that he had mended the puncture and now there was no threat of any more graining coming out of the Sharif’s sack. The general was right in his claim.  The Pir failed in his mission. But his opinion of Mr Sharif remained unchanged.

Then, although he always talked on unification of various factions of the PML, he remained among the opponents of Mr Sharif.

Only months before his death, he told TheNation in an interview that the Sharifs were untrustworthy and he would prefer to join hands with the Chaudhrys, although he had also very negative opinion of them.

Despite inheriting such a legacy, if Pir Sibghatullah Rashidi (the incumbent Pir Pagara) agrees to form an electoral alliance with the PML-N, it shows flexibility on both sides. The late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was also among the opponents of Mr Sharif.

Mr Sharif was the Punjab chief minister and Jatoi the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly when a no-confidence motion had been tabled against then prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989. Mr Sharif used all resources of the Punjab government against the PPP leader. However, he did not go the whole hog to make the motion a success because in that case Mr Jatoi would have been the beneficiary. And this was something Mr Sharif did not like. Even subsequently, the ties between them remained strained, notwithstanding their public posturing to the contrary.

If today the late Jatoi’s son Ghulama Murtaza goes for an electoral alliance between the NPP and the PML-N, it will benefit both the parties.

JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman has always kept himself at a distance from the PML-N. He has been working with the PPP, but never with the PML-N. He was among the leaders closest to Benazir Bhutto when other religious leaders were saying that in an Islamic state a woman was not qualified to head the government.

The PML-N has been having an equally negative opinion of Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

If all three parties mentioned above stay with the PML-N, it would be quite difficult for the PPP to counter them in the elections.

Similarly, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf will have to ‘intensify its tsunami’ to be able to get favourable results in the elections.