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May 18, 2018

Nawaz comments on Mumbai attacks Potential political ramifications


May 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The possible political gains and losses that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s remarks on the Mumbai attack have spawned for him and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have grabbed the attention of all and sundry, and a variety of opinion is being offered.

There are some who claim that his contentious observations have fallen like a bombshell on the PML-N, pushing it in a messy, no-win situation. But there is nothing much on the surface emerging from the PML-N to back up or justify this assertion. There is no race to forsake it in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s statement.

Resultantly, an apparent corollary of this scenario is that the PML-N leaders, MPs and “electables” continue to prefer their association with their party and want to contest the upcoming general elections on its tickets on the premise that it is the party that can significantly add to their personal votes, bringing victory to them.

Only one influential politician from Chakwal Sardar Ghulam Abbas, whose group has to its credit electoral successes in his district, has said goodbye to the PML-N saying that he can’t defend Nawaz Sharif during the poll campaign for his comments on the Mumbai episode.

But he did not speak the truth. In fact, it was reported a couple of days before the ex-premier’s telling statement that he is leaving the PML-N. Also, he has been told by the party that he will not be given two tickets of his choice in the Chakwal district that in reality estranged him, forcing him to sever its affiliation with it. Ghulam Abbas has a track record of shifting from one party to another in almost every election. But this time, he has announced that his group will fight the polls as an independent group.

The desertion of the Sahi brothers of Faisalabad that has now materialized was on the card for over a month, and their joining of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was final. While leaving the PML-N, they did not mention any specific reasons behind their decision.

Over the past a few weeks, a number of PML-N’s federal and Punjab lawmakers walked out of it and gone to the PTI even before Nawaz Sharif’s observations. None of those who did so after he articulated his standpoint cited it as the reason for ditching it.

The PML-N supremo’s remarks might have caused concerns and chagrin to certain powerful elements of the PML-N, but none is prepared to come in the open to voice it. Even in the National Assembly parliamentary party meeting, chaired by the party president Shahbaz Sharif for the first time, just four MPs showed reservations over Nawaz Sharif’s narrative on Mumbai attack while the rest loudly endorsed it.

Everybody, who is anybody in the PML-N, admits without ifs and buts that it is Nawaz Sharif who is the vote-getter and the entire party revolves around him. Although Shahbaz Sharif is its president and his Punjab government performed exceedingly well compared to what its counterparts in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan have done over the past five years, he and his party are wholly dependent on the popularity of the supreme leader, who has the final say in the key decision-making process.

It is not privately or publicly known that any set of PML-N leaders locked in a discussion with Nawaz Sharif to ventilate their resentment over his observations and threatened him to wean away from the PML-N if he did not retract his statement. Shahbaz Sharif may be counseling his elder brother to avoid any hard line at this point of time especially views like those offered on the Mumbai attack. But perhaps time has still not come when the dream of those cherishing for decades that the two brothers will fall apart will be translated into reality. The reasons are simple: one is the family ethos and traditions and second is that the PML-N president knows it very well that he and the PML-N will be at a loss at the hustling in case of any visible split between the two.

The state of the PML-N in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s declaration on the Mumbai assault apart, what the expelled prime minister has stated on the issue and repeatedly stuck to it later has provided an unnecessary justification to the PTI and his other detractors to thrash him and hurl uncalled for allegations like treason. Additionally, it has heightened confrontation and rung alarm bells among certain circles. It could and should have been skirted. This is the downside of the whole affair. However, Nawaz Sharif is adamant to not budge from his stand that he stresses has been taken out of conviction to rectify wrongs and steer Pakistan out of the crises.

At a time when the PML-N is already confronted with a tough situation that gripped it after the ouster of the ex-premier on July 28 last, there was no need to add to its woes and distress and that too by its supreme leader. Already, it is under attack from different sides and concerted efforts are in full swing to take away a maximum number of its “electables”. Even if one powerful personality, who has good electoral prospects, slips away just because of Nawaz Sharif’s remarks on the Mumbai assault, it will be a big minus for it as no party wants to lose even a single such person on such occasions.

It is all speculation that Nawaz Sharif has massively benefited or lost due to his shocker. The real, credible outcome of his stand will be before everybody in the next general polls. Till that time, everyone has to wait with bated breath and may love to indulge in speculation of every kind.

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