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The Many Dilemmas of PML-N

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is faced with multiple dilemmas at this juncture of history – but the foremost of them are two: Confrontational politics or appeasement policy? And who is in charge Maryam Nawaz or Shahbaz Sharif?

The fissures within the party are widening after the 11-party alliance Pakistan Demo- cratic Movement (PDM) crumbled. With exceptions of a couple of leaders in the party, nobody in the party ranks is ready to carry the burden of anti-establishment narrative of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

The election results of Azad Jammu and Kashmir have left many points to ponder if the party has gained anything for being a bit ‘soft’ on the powers-that-be. Apparently, softening stance on establishment didn’t work either. The party is in a fix.

A key part of the problem is that PML-N alone may not be able to mobilise street power to stage huge protests against the government for its failure in reining in the galloping prices of daily-use items.

The younger brother Shahbaz Sharif is the party head and the opposition leader in the National Assembly. He is supposed to be at the forefront confronting the government on all fronts. On the contrary, more often Shahbaz Sharif goes into hiding and remains silent on key issues where an opposition leader is expected to raise his voice on the anti-people policies of the government.

Perhaps, his policy of appeasement is restricting him from coming out in the open and hitting the government and its backers from all sides. His son Hamza Shahbaz is also toeing his father’s line. Hamza is the opposition leader in the provincial assembly of the largest province of the country. On the floor of the house, he has hardly given a tough time to the ruling PTI.

Even in Punjab, the party has failed to cash in on the impending issues like sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities, resumption of load-shedding during the hottest time of summer, joblessness, etc. The father-son duo resurface for a brief period and do a media talk criticising the government and then again choose to keep a low profile.

The father has a very clear approach towards the establishment and he has expressed it very openly. He is a great proponent of a great dialogue to solve the country’s problems which have hampered the progress. But there is no buyer, it seems.

Imran Khan and his backers have shown little interest in what Shahbaz Sharif has been saying for the last couple of years. Even then, he believes he can negotiate with the establishment. However, his political gestures, many hawks of the party think, will not earn goodwill among the voters

On the other hand, while Shahbaz Sharif remained out of picture, Maryam Nawaz single-handedly led the election campaign in AJK. However, during the recent AJK Elections, Maryam seemed to have shifted her criticism from what she calls ‘selectors’ to Khan in most of her speeches.

The election results are here and party stood at number three after PTI and PPP.

There are reports of growing concerns among the leadership who blame Maryam

for the poor showing in AJK election. They think party leaders must have been consult- ed to devise a comprehensive strategy to contest the elections instead of going solo and making aggressive speeches.

Insiders say now Maryam does not consult her uncle Shahbaz Sharif on many issues pertaining to the future course of action of the party. Although her approach against the Army has become less aggressive, she is considered the only leader within the party who is following the narrative of her father.

Many in the party believe Maryam has taken the full control of the party affairs and her hawkish style of politics has been accepted by a good number of party leaders if not all. The party is happy that at the federal level Imran Khan is making ‘blunders’ while in Punjab a weak chief minister like Usman Buzdar has failed to make his mark.

Some believe merely hard-hitting speeches cannot deliver and will lose value with the passage of time until a mass movement is launched against the present hybrid regime for bringing the country to a level where the poor has been crushed under the mountain of problems.

The heady days of mammoth PDM protest rallies are history now. The opposition must find a new platform to unite, which seems a far-fetched dream for now.

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