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November 3, 2017

Rejection of minus-Nawaz fomula shows PML-N’s internal strength


November 3, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The categorical rejection of minus-Nawaz Sharif formula by the top guns of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) showcased its internal strength and its top leaders’ resolve to resist any imposed plan to rob the party of its popular chief.

More than once, the same prescription was tried for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) but it turned out to be a damp squib and an exercise in futility. Before the Bhuttos, Asif Ali Zardari was also the target of a similar tactic but he ducked it. With the change of political circumstances he doesn’t face any such machination.

Taunting calls and emphasis of Nawaz Sharif’s detractors to come back and not to fear the accountability dragnet apart, many conversely want the deposed premier and his aggressive daughter Maryam to stay away from Pakistan. This, in the opinion of such elements, will automatically implement the minus-one formula in the PML-N as it will be deprived of an effective leadership.

Not only the minus-Nawaz Sharif formula was vociferously rubbished by the senior most PML-N leaders in a huddle in London, but it was also decided that the deposed prime minister will fly back to Pakistan to face the three references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the accountability court on the Supreme Court direction in the Panama case. Thus, those wishing he absents himself from Pakistan may be disappointed. His stay abroad would have provided good ammunition to his opponents to take on him.

After the London meeting, Nawaz Sharif reiterated that he was denied a fair trial and was ejected on “Iqama” and not Panama, stressing the trivial ground behind his dismissal. This is what he has been saying everywhere since the July 28 judgment of the top court. There was no change in his policy as a result of the critical discussions. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif echoed the same theme saying that the ex-premier did not get a fair trial, which is the fundamental right of every citizen, at the Supreme Court, and demanding it was his right.

The final line adopted by the London deliberations may help remove confusion and uncertainty within the PML-N ranks, which was permeating for some time due to the statements of some of its leaders. It will definitely dispirit those craving for factionalism in the party.

It is clear to all and sundry in the PML-N that its entire politics and electoral power will heavily suffer if Nawaz Sharif sits home or abroad silently and did not protest over what was done to him, leading to his expulsion.

What is evident from the outcome of the London meeting leaves no doubt that Nawaz Sharif ultimately prevailed, and this was widely predicted and expected by discerning people. Even otherwise it would have been nothing but callous and opportunistic to sideline a leader, maybe for the time being, who has built the party, at a time when he has been thrown out for reasons, which have not at all impressed a large number of legal brains.

A popular politician who has been prime minister thrice and has seen all ins and outs of the power can correctly sense the post-disqualification situation and confidently voice it as well: “I know what’s going against me; I understand this; I am witnessing everything.”

Another important declaration that came from London was that Shahbaz Sharif will be the PML-N’s nominee for the slot of the prime minister if the party wins the next general elections. There is no harm in making this clear right now. Nawaz Sharif himself once said in the wake of the July 28 verdict that he did not want to become prime minister after the 2013 general elections.

Some meek calls given by some party stalwarts before the crucial decisive parleys that the elder Sharif should quickly vacate the slot of the PML-N president for younger brother were not accorded any credence by the top leaders as the ex-premier will continue to head it.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has denounced Nawaz Sharif’s retention of the PML-N’s control, which, he claims, is meant “to malign the NAB, judiciary and army to pressure state institutions for another National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as part of the ‘London Game Plan’.”

Hardly ever since his ouster, the former prime minister has mentioned the army by name to decry it. But the PTI chief and his party leaders have repeatedly brought in the military while claiming that Nawaz Sharif is slating it.

However, Nawaz Sharif has been highly critical of the entire process including the Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that resulted in his expulsion. He has not been approving the proceedings at the Supreme Court, the NAB and accountability court. Despite all his grave reservations and protest, he has been part of the whole affair and has not run away from it at any stage.

On the other hand, Imran Khan has never appeared before an anti-terrorism court that has issued his perennial arrest warrants, consistently stayed away from the Election Commission of Pakistan and was compelled to show up before it when it threatened to take a severe action against him.      

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