LAHORE - Though yet to be formally designated for the top office, Imran Khan, on the basis of his party’s electoral performance, gave himself the mantle of the prime minister and made public on Thursday the priorities of his would-be government. He also said in addition to the centre, the PTI would also form governments in Punjab and KP.

This effectively shatters the PML-N’s dream of ruling the country once again.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, lodged at Adiala Jail ever since his return from London on July 13, alleged that the elections were stolen. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif rejected the results and the party at a meeting in Lahore decided to sit on opposition benches at the Centre and try to form government in Punjab. The party would also collect proofs of rigging before calling for a meeting of opposition parties to devise a joint strategy.

What led to the PML-N’s ‘debacle’ on July 25? Did the party leadership make some miscalculations about the impact of Mr Sharif’s conviction in the Avenfield reference, or his disqualification in Panama papers case?

Was it also wrong on the part of the PML-N leadership to take on the establishment, the judiciary and the NAB?

Unfortunately, answers to all these questions are in the positive.

Nawaz Sharif thought that turnout on the election day would be unprecedented and votes for the PML-N would enable the party to undo his disqualification/conviction and pave the way for his return to power.

While urging people to vote overwhelmingly in favour of the PML-N, he perhaps forgot that a large number of electables had parted ways with his party after which it would not get the number of seats needed to bring about the required constitutional amendments.

It was also a miscalculation that voters would ignore his conviction by a court of law, especially at a time when the PTI had also launched a major propaganda campaign against the PML-N leadership. Imran Khan’s commitment for an even-handed accountability of the corrupt and resolve to bring back the looted money from abroad also changed many a mind in favour of the cricketer-turned-politician.

The problem with the PML-N is that nobody dares say a word that could annoy the supremo. He is surrounded by such people who say only what the leader wants to hear.

A recent example will explain how much ‘importance’ the views of other leaders are given. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said a few days before the elections that there is a need for a new social contract – worked out by all state institutions – to grapple with the multiple problems facing the country. He also said that his party would take such an initiative after the polls.

But a party spokesman said the following day that this is the personal opinion of Shehbaz Sharif, not the party policy.

One fails to understand if the party president can’t define the policy, who does?

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was liked by the former prime minister also because even after the latter’s disqualification by a court he used to say that ‘my prime minister is Nawaz Sharif’.

The PML-N received a serious setback in the election also because both the brothers gave opposing narratives to voters. While the elder brother was on the warpath, the younger brother adopted a conciliatory tone.

Party sources say that the two-pronged policy was aimed at preventing defections and giving the people a ray of hope that Shehbaz Sharif would devise some strategy to improve relations with the state institutions. However, it didn’t work, and many voters preferred to vote for other parties.

The hope that the Punjab voters would go against the establishment did not materialize.

As things stand, there’s little possibility of the power that be giving any concession to the former prime minister and his daughter in jail.

Cases against other party leaders are likely to be opened/decided in the near future after which unrest in the party would go up.

And opportunists in the party, who are there only to enjoy power, may form some forward bloc in times ahead to find a justification to join hands with the ruling party.

Many recall that Nawaz Sharif was groomed by Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan. He twice became chief minister of Punjab and thrice the prime minister of the country with the backing of the establishment.

Now the times appear to have changed. Now he may have to ‘enjoy’ a different kind of life in a different environment, in a different city, remembering the good old days.