PML(N) in a pickle
The decision by Makhdum Javed Hashmi to join the PTI along with daughter and MNA Maimuna Hashmi is yet another reflection of the sad state of affairs prevailing in the PML(N). Hashmi was the most prominent PML(N) leader who stood by Nawaz Sharif steadfastly and continued to criticise Musharraf, braving threats and incarceration. That Hashmi remained tight-lipped regarding why he was leaving the party would raise questions all the more so after his remark that he had no complaints against the leadership. In any case, departure is a reflection of the party leadership’s failure to keep internal differences within manageable limits.
While the PML(N) has declared that it wants the government to go, the party remains badly divided over the question of tactics. Fearful of the army using any agitation as an excuse to take over, Nawaz has stopped short of giving a call for the overthrow of the government. After taking the memo case to the SC which is seen by the PPP as an attempt to derail democracy, Nawaz is on the defensive over the memo affair. He now says that the elections could be held after the Senate polls in March. He has also stressed the need to put what he calls the genie of army and ISI back into the bottle. An altogether different stand is taken by the party hard liners. Shahbaz has condemned Gilani’s remarks about the army maintaining that the prime minister had violated his oath. Khwaja Saad Rafique has demanded that the party’s legislators resign from the NA to force the government to hold elections. Unless the PML(N) leadership is able to resolve the issues, Javed Hashmi might not be last party leader to abandon it.
The departure of PML(N)’s stalwart from Multan has further weakened the party in the Seraiki area. Any further desertion from Punjab would make its electoral prospects grim. With PTI making advances, the PPP too is likely to find itself in a similar situation in Punjab. The PPP-led government would not last long if the offstage players were to manage to affect desertions from the alliance. The only way the two parties can face the challenge is by joining hands. This does not seem possible in the presence of the differences within the PML(N).