There was a big outcry on the social media when PML-N announced unconditional support for the amendments in army services act to give extension to army chief and other services chiefs. Majority of PML-N middle class well educated social media activists which were considered close to Maryam Nawaz and vocally campaigning against powers that be- reacted strongly on this unconditional support.
They were in the state of shock as they promoted the idea of “vote ko izzat du” (give respect to vote) since the ouster of former PM Nawaz Sharif from power in 2017. They believed that Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif would go to any extent to establish the civil supremacy. There was visible sense of anger- shock and disbelieve on that decision among the social media activists.
Now the question is does the overwhelming majority of PML-N leaders- parliamentarians and party activists share these sentiments and anger? The answer is no. The reality is that majority of local leaders- activists and parliamentarians are happy or rather satisfied with this decision. There is strong perception or sense among the PML-N supporters and tradition activists that this decision will take PML-N back to power. The leaders believe that this decision will end the hard times for PML-N.
PML-N is facing hard times and many of its leaders were sent to jail and some are still languishing in jails. NAB has so far given tough time to PML-N leaders including Sharif family. There is strong sense within PML-N that this decision to support the extension of army chief General Qamar Bajwa would bring some much needed relieve to it.
The social media activists were shocked to see the both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif on the same page. They were used to believe that Shahbaz Sharif is trying his best to strike a deal with establishment but it was Nawaz Sharif who resisted. The silence of Maryam Nawaz and media reports that Nawaz Sharif himself asked his party leaders to provide unconditional support to extension legislation in parliament.
They can no longer blame Shahbaz Sharif for politics of appeasement and compromise. They expected some tweets from Maryam Nawaz but they get none. There is complete silence on this issue as far as Nawaz Sharif and Maryam are concerned. This situation disappointed many social media activists.
But reality is that majority of traditional supporters of PML-N are satisfied and happy over this decision. They want the party back in power. They understand that to clinch power- it is necessary to normalise the relations with real powers of this country. They are hoping that this decision would bring them closer to win power.
Both the Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif camps are satisfied and consider this decision as a smart move. The PML-N leadership has once again proved that it is not party of resistance. Its support base and organisational structure is not helpful and suitable for the politics of resistance and defiance.
It has a strong support base among centre right and rightwing religious leaning voters mainly traders- upper and lower middle class sections of society and poor people in Punjab. The different party tiers have taken a sigh of relief on the Sharif brothers’ decision as it would be helpful in ‘ending fight’ with the powers that be — opening new avenues for reconciliation and getting rid of the Imran Khan government at the earliest.
The leaders considered to be from the Nawaz Sharif camp were tasked to do ‘damage control’ on the media after taking them into confidence that under the current political circumstances the leadership had made a ‘right decision.’ According to some PML-N sources- Maryam Nawaz has personally spoke to some leaders and conveyed the message of Nawaz sharif.
PML-N president and opposition leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has also spoken to the parliamentarians and party’s main leaders at national and provincial level- directing them to tell the workers in their constituencies that “soon the PML-N is returning to power.”
The party leaders are justifying this decision and arguing “What else options the party leadership had other than supporting the act that empowers the prime minister to give extension to the chiefs of three armed services (army, air force and navy)? Could the already battered PML-N afford to go against the Army Act and was it ready for its consequences?”
Even if the PML-N had voted against the act (which enabled Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to continue as army chief for another three years), it would have been passed by the parliament in either case. See what happened in the Senate chairman non-confidence move where the opposition despite having majority votes could not oust chairman Senate Sanjrani.
They are telling the local party leaders and activists that in such a scenario, it is a perfect political move by the Sharifs.” Some leaders belonging to both camps within PML-N are confident that there is no divide and differences in the party and all who matters in the party are happy and satisfied.
Most of the senior party leaders and parliamentarians are saying that the party leadership had taken “wise” decision considering political ground realities. “How long a party could fight against the powers that be? It is easy to say to stick to your ‘revolutionary philosophy’ but on ground it’s not that easier. Our party’s fresh position may not augur well among ideological voters and we may go in next polls with this ‘scar’ but the other reality is this the people/voters have short memory and they never mind such things. Call general elections tomorrow… the PML-N will emerge the single largest winning party and this is also a ground reality.” The PML-N had never been a “party of resistance”: “It should be given full credit for putting up strong resistance for the last couple of years or so.”
In the face of the PML-N’s decision to support the Army Act, the word is conveyed to all tiers of the party that the difficult time is about to be over and soon it will return to power and this has generated a lot of excitement among them.
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17 November, 2019