And the defections from his party
In a recent interview given to a prominent journalist, Cyril Almeida, former chief of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif said that “you cannot run a country if you have two of three parallel governments. This has to stop. There can only be one government: the constitutional one.” Reportedly Sharif while answering a question regarding his controversial disqualification from public office said that “We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it.” Sharif also took on a number of institutions for its inability to rein in radical groups that allegedly have undermined Pakistan’s regional interests.
Sharif’s party not only disowned his claims but also termed his interview an attempt to undermine Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and is not ready to own to own his claims against a number of state institutions
Sharif’s interview that launched a new round of criticism against his political organization for allegedly undermining Pakistan’s narrative on counter-terrorism is likely going to be the final nail in the party’s coffin when it comes to the ruling party’s ability to win the next general election.
Sharif may have thought that by upping the ante against his opponents in judiciary and elsewhere, he may emerge as a leader who has a narrative surrounding a fundamental issue tied to Pakistan’s stability. Sharif’s party not only disowned his claims but also termed his interview an attempt to undermine Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and is not ready to own to own his claims against a number of state institutions. The media in the country has been quick to term Sharif’s comments nothing less than an attempt of an opportune politician who is ready to do anything, even undermine his country’s ‘national interests’ to get elected.
While Sharif’s interview clearly reflected his frustration regarding his systematic isolation from the country’s politics, the political opposition may have finally got its hands on something which can expedite the ruling party’s internal divisions. Imran Khan, the head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) in a statement said that “as much as I appreciate Nawaz campaigning for PTI … PTI may not be able to take in the massive exodus from PML-N.” Khan’s statement was aimed at the ruling party’s electable candidates in Punjab: now is the time to join the party, for the party may not be able to accommodate newcomers when the interim government is formed in the next few weeks. Khan’s approach seems to be working successfully: following Sharif’s statement which was projected and advertised as anti-Pakistan by the military as well as the media, a wave of lawmakers from the ruling party joined PTI. The process of defections from the ruling party is expected to turn into a movement as soon as the government completes its constitutional term by the end of this month.
Compounding Sharif’s likely demise is the ongoing struggle for succession over the control of the party within the Sharif family. As it appears, Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who is also the Chief Minister of the Punjab province, is following an entirely separate electoral agenda that talks about winning the next general election on the basis of the party’s performance in the governance sector. Shahbaz who is also the head of the party has seldom criticized the judiciary and other state institutions for their alleged interference in politics. On the other hand, while elder Sharif is bent on highlighting the judiciary’s controversial role in his disqualification and undermining the party’s political future, Shahbaz has only been seen as appeasing the same institutions. After Sharif’s interview, there were clashes among both the brothers’ camps in the party, mutually accusing each other of destroying the party from within. These cases are intensifying at a time when the party is under pressure not only from within but also from the outside.
Shahbaz who is also the head of the party has seldom criticized the judiciary and other state institutions for their alleged interference in politics
With the government only a week away from completing its constitutional term in office, there appears a visible sign of the former losing its popular electable candidates to opposition parties. In this regard one of the arguments which the opportunist electable candidates can now put forward is the same argument which has become part of the popular narrative now regardless of the merits: Nawaz is doing the politics of opportunism and it doesn’t serve Pakistan’s interests in any way. And if PTI which has emerged as the main opposition to Sharif’s party is able to attract some big names in the coming weeks, the PML-N chances of forming the next government will only wither.
Sharif’s interview has not achieved anything for the ruling party; rather it has given the opposition enough fodder to weaken the party’s likely electoral gains.