PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif, being the head of a national party and former Prime Minister, should not cause any confusion, but he did so when he told a private TV channel on Monday that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sometimes gave harsh statements against President Zardari. This raises the question whether Mian Shahbaz, who is also the Punjab chief of the party, should be paid any attention. Mian Nawaz was being asked about the willingness he expressed to take oath as Prime Minister from Mr Zardari as President, in view of Mian Shahbaz’s consistent attacks on him. Mian Nawaz should keep in mind that these attacks are part apparently of the election campaign. And if the party chief is so willing to discount the statements of his provincial chief, he is making it impossible to speak for the party, something which will be harmful in the general election almost upon us.

Mian Nawaz, before blithely giving statements, should remember well his experience with the Charter of Democracy, and of how the President’s appetite for power in the Punjab is undiminished. First he imposed emergency to bring down the Shahbaz government, and most recently expressed the desire to win Punjab, where the PPP has not won the chief ministership since 1977, though it has twice been part of the government there. This might well be part of politics, but the Supreme Court has held that the President must maintain neutrality. The example of the oath is actually a good one. A newly elected Prime Minister, who just triumphed in a process full of partisan politics, would have to take oath from the PPP Co-Chairman, as much as a democratically elected President. Whether this will be acceptable to a new Prime Minister is the question. Would Mian Nawaz, as head of his own party be taking oath from a rival party’s co-chairman? It seems by expressing this willingness, Mian Nawaz seems to have abandoned the support for the judiciary that had been an integral part of his party’s stand.