Political sce­nario

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

The maxim - mis­for­tune never comes alone - is prov­ing pun­gently true in the case of Nawaz Sharif. First he was dis­qual­i­fied to be a mem­ber of par­lia­ment and had to step down from the pre­mier­ship of the coun­try. Next he was barred by the Supreme Court from be­ing elected as head of his political party. Fi­nally, last week, the apex court ruled that un­der the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the con­sti­tu­tion of Pak­istan, Nawaz Sharif's dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion is for life. This means that the PML-N has en­tered its post-Nawaz era.

A ban has also now been clamped on the use of in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage by Nawaz Sharif and daugh­ter Maryam Nawaz against state in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing the ju­di­ciary and the army. Last week, the Lahore High Court barred all Pak­istani TV chan­nels from air­ing the speeches of the rul­ing PML-N party's lead­er­ship, which tar­geted the coun­try's top ju­di­ciary. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the de­ci­sion came im­me­di­ately af­ter the apex court's his­toric ver­dict ban­ning Nawaz Sharif from pol­i­tics for life. This has put paid to the slan­der­ous political cam­paign he has been car­ry­ing on for the last eight months, tar­get­ing both his political ri­vals and honourable judges of the apex court.

The fu­ture of the party looks bleak given the splits and fis­sures that are be­com­ing clearer by the day. Last week, a num­ber of PML-N law­mak­ers ten­dered res­ig­na­tions and an­nounced that they would op­pose the party in the up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion. In the days ahead, the PML-N is likely to wit­ness more de­fec­tions, with electa­bles choos­ing to join another party or go in­de­pen­dent be­fore the elec­tions. Political an­a­lysts ex­pect a group of 40-50 in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates con­test­ing un­der the same sym­bol and as an in­for­mal group that will be in a bar­gain­ing po­si­tion in the new leg­is­la­ture.

If Shah­baz Sharif is also con­victed, the Sharif fam­ily will lose its grip over the party. With the in­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion only weeks away, the de­fec­tions of electable can­di­dates only send a strong mes­sage to op­por­tunis­tic politi­cians that now is the time to jump ship, for stay­ing with the rul­ing party only means stay­ing with the losers. As of now, PML-N is di­vided into two camps. Maryam Nawaz's harsh nar­ra­tive that she has been push­ing through in political ral­lies has cre­ated deep dif­fer­ences within the party. Chaudhry Nisar as well as other se­nior party stal­warts are against the ag­gres­sive stance taken against the ju­di­ciary and the mil­i­tary. Their ar­gu­ment is that the bel­liger­ent ap­proach is jeop­ar­dis­ing any re­main­ing chances of the party's sur­vival in the medium run. Even Shah­baz Sharif is of the view that the party should not be pushed to the point of no re­turn.

No doubt, PML-N is in a tricky sit­u­a­tion. Un­less its lead­er­ship, which is in ef­fec­tively in the hands of fire­brand Maryam Nawaz, al­ters its cur­rent political ap­proach and stops be­rat­ing state in­sti­tu­tions, the party will con­tinue sink­ing deeper into a morass of its own mak­ing. The up­com­ing elec­tions may throw up many sur­prises. With PML-N's political sup­port erod­ing and PTI mak­ing in­roads in Pun­jab and Sind, we may have a hung par­lia­ment at the cen­tre with a large num­ber of in­de­pen­dents lend­ing sup­port to the win­ning com­bi­na­tion. In Pun­jab, too, the pos­si­bil­ity of a coali­tion govern­ment is strong with a num­ber of par­ties op­posed to PML-N com­ing to­gether to form an al­liance.

Ac­cord­ing to political pun­dits, PTI will con­tinue to rule in KP, while in Sindh PPP will form the govern­ment with the sup­port of MQM or in­de­pen­dents. Balochis­tan re­mains a political enigma where both PPP and PTI are vy­ing to garner political sup­port. Both at the cen­tre and in the Pun­jab, PTI and Pak­istan Peo­ple's Party may ul­ti­mately go for seat ad­just­ment to re­main rel­e­vant in the new political dis­pen­sa­tion whose coun­ters are be­com­ing clearer with each pass­ing day. The coun­try is en­ter­ing a new political era in which PML-N will be a mere shadow of its for­mer self.

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