PML-N is still on rescue mission to safe the sinking ship of Sharif family. Former Prime minister Nawaz Sharif has already been disqualified to hold any public and political office for life. He can return to Adyala prison if convicted in two references from accountability court on December 24. His younger brother and former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif is in prison. NAB wants to bring out different charges of corruption, misuse of authority and irregularities.
The political future of Maryam Nawaz still hangs in balance. The Supreme Court is going to take up the issue of her bail by Islamabad High Court in coming days. Her immediate political future depends on Supreme Court decision. If sent back to Adyala prison then she will have to wait for years to return back to practical politics. The opposition leader in Punjab assembly and elder son of Shahbaz Sharif is also facing investigation. His younger brother Salman Shahbaz who looks after the family business is also under investigation. He has left the country after appearing couple of times before the NAB.
The dark clouds of political uncertainty are hovering over the heads of Sharif family. Shahbaz Sharif tried in the past and still trying to not only rescue himself but also the entire family. Thepolitics of PML-N as a political party is focused to rescue the leadership from the NAB cases. The party is in survival mode. The party leadership is in confused state of mind as far as the political strategy is concerned. Nawaz Sharif and her daughter adopted a tough and defiant political approach before the general election and after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification. They developed anti- establishment narrative.
But Shahbaz Sharif took conciliatory approach and line to appease the establishment. He succeeded to save PML-N from complete catastrophe. He still hope that his conciliatory politics will rescue both Sharif family and PML-N in the medium and long term. He thinks that present hardships and difficulties are temporary and will end soon. He knows that PML-N is not the party of street agitation and protests. It’s a well-entrenched electoral machine in Punjab.
PML-N leadership has adopted the strategy to use parliamentary platforms to agitate against the government instead of street agitation. Shahbaz Sharif and other senior leaders of PML-N think that conciliatory politics will ultimately rescue his political fortunes.
Now the question is why PML-N as a party needs someone from Sharif family to lead the party in difficult times? The answer is because PML-N is not a political party in a classic sense. It is a personality cult around popular leadership of Nawaz Sharif. PML-N represent the traditional rightwing pro establishment voters of Punjab and some parts of KPK. PML-N has no popular and strong leaders who can replace Sharif family. PML-N cannot survive as a viable political force without Sharifs.
The matter of fact is that it is not the PML-N that will rescue the Sharif family but it is the other way round. The PML-N is looking towards Sharifs to rescue the party. The authority of the leadership could be undermined when it failed to struck a deal with real powers to reverse the fortunes. The Sharifs have the task and responsibility not only to rescue themselves but also the party.
PML-N has no such structures and organizational network to launch a mass movement against government. It lacks the organizational and political capacity and capability to mobilise the masses. So parliamentary agitation is the viable option it has to raise its concerns and narrative.
It is pertinent to mention here that Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz since suspension of their prison sentence on September 19 has not made any public appearance to respond to the country’s political situation or to the legal matters theirs family is embroiled in. Initially, the party maintained that Sharifs given the death of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, was observing a grieving period of 40 days. However, even after culmination of this period, neither the former PM has made any public appearance nor does he plan to do so, according to close aides.
It is also worth mentioning that suspension of his prison sentence was speculated to be a result of a deal which was strongly rejected by not only the PML-N but also by the concerned quarters.
According to the said deal’s speculations, it was agreed by the Sharif clan to not ‘bash’ state institutions, tone down their harsh narrative and keep away from mainstream politics. It seems that Shahbaz Sharif has finally won the argument within the family and party to continue the conciliatory politics and approach to steer the ship of PML-N and Sharif family out of rough waters.
The time will tell whether this policy of appeasement will succeed or not. But that is the only option PML-N and Sharif family has its disposal.
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17 November, 2019