AJK polls further widen rift within PML-N

Hassan NaqviReporter

28th Jul, 2021. 07:13 pm
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LAHORE: The poor performance of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) in the recent Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections have widened the rifts within the party.

The results have triggered a debate among the party circles as to who is responsible for the debacle – the party’s anti-establishment narrative or poor electioneering.

In the polls held on July 25, 2021, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) managed to bag 25 seats, with Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) taking the second lead with 11 seats, while PML-N could only manage to win six seats of the 45 constituencies.

In stark contrast, the PML-N formed the government in AJK after the 2016 polls, winning from 31 constituencies.

“The party may lose another three seats to PPP on recount,” a senior PPP leader from AJK told BOL News. This will leave the PML-N with only three seats in the AJK Legislative Assembly.

Senior PPP leader from Central Punjab Chaudhry Manzoor is also of the same opinion that the recount will further damage PML-N.

According to party insiders, people have rejected PML-N’s vice president Maryam Nawaz’s uncalled-for bashing of state institutions.

They believe that despite the number of political rallies and massive election campaigning by her, the number of seats won by the party only proves that PML-N has failed to translate its crowd into votes.

The PML-N is now divided into two groups, one, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s camp led by his daughter Maryam Nawaz and the second by Shahbaz Sharif.

“The Nawaz camp has a policy of going hard on the establishment without any substantial evidence and accuses state institutions, whereas, Shahbaz, who is the party president is against bashing of [the] state institutions and wants [the] PML-N to target the Imran-led PTI government like a true opposition party,” a senior party leader told BOL News.

He said Shahbaz focuses on the government and is picking cards to be relevant to his party, ‘powerful friends’ and other parliamentary groups such as the PPP.

“PML-N president Shahbaz is unhappy with how Maryam bashed state institutions and her narrative was rejected by the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” another party leader added.

Party insiders told BOL News that Shahbaz believes that Maryam’s rallies caused more damage to the party.

A senior political analyst, who wished not to be named, said that Maryam’s speeches had damaged the position of the state in Kashmir.

He recalled that Maryam in one of her political rallies claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan was mulling over a proposal and wanted to change the status of AJK to a province.

“It was a complete lie because Pakistan’s stance is that the Kashmir issue should be resolved as per the wishes of the Kashmiris in accordance with [the] UN resolutions,” he stated.

He suggested that Maryam should avoid giving such remarks in the future, as it would do more harm than good to her party. But unfortunately, Shahbaz lacks the charisma that pulls the crowd in the PML-N jalsas.

Party sources told BOL News that Shahbaz has long waited to be crowned PML-N chief, for all those years standing silently behind his charismatic elder brother Nawaz Sharif.

“When things were swinging in his favour, Nawaz Sharif chose Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over Shahbaz for the prime minister’s office in 2017. Later on, he put forward his daughter as his potential successor making Shahbaz a Pakistani version of Prince Talal of Jordan, who despite being a crown prince for decades was cornered by his own elder brother, King Shah Hussain,” the source added.

“The Nawaz narrative is becoming unpopular among [the] party cadres too and senior leadership from Nawaz’s camp has expressed their reservations and are joining Shahbaz’s camp,” a party source added.

In monarchies, the blood is always thicker than water. PML-N is a monarchy established in the name of democracy. The real king (Nawaz) has made Shahbaz a fall guy, sending the ball in Maryam’s court, as she will rule the PML-N roost.

Political analysts believe that amid the ongoing course of fights all over, former PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif will have to act as a moderator. Although the final decision lies with the Nawaz camp yet.

“Until Shahbaz finally develops a strong political position, determining unity of command is the only way to save his political capital. He must make himself seen and not heard; simultaneously. Not least by the elder Sharif, whose glory days are long gone. Nawaz must play the final card. It will be his last hurrah,” sources close to the Sharif family told BOL News.

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