That the Election Commission has inched a little closer to holding elections by deciding that preliminary delimitations will be published on September 27, and final delimitations on November 30. That tales elections of the last week in January after a 54-day election programme is provided for. That means that PML(N) Supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif will need to return to Pakistan by November 21, as is planned, if he is to have any effect on the coming election campaign. However, party chief Mian Shehbaz Sharif’s two trips to London, while reflecting this, also contain a struggle over the party’s election narrative. Mian Nawaz has accused two generals and a judge for ousting him, and then imposing PTI chief Imran Khan, and has named names. Mian Shehbaz is made uncomfortable by this anti-establishment narrative, as he has always taken a pro-establishment stance in politics.
That is not the only problem the PML(N) faces in shaping an election platform. There is also the issue of Mian Nawaz having imposed Ishaq Dar as Finance Minister and thus created the wave of resentment the party faces in the electorate for the poor state of the economy, Mian Shehbaz cannot escape all responsibility, because he was the PM who accepted Senator Dar into the Cabinet, even though Miftah Ismail was doing the job, arguably better, and at least not worse. Mr Ismail represents another problem, as he and former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbassi are among those who are considered likely to join the new party that former PPP Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar has spoken of. Mr Ismail and Mr Abbassi are not the only intra-party problem Mian Nawaz must handle. There is the possibility that the pressure of an election campaign will bring to the fore the rivalry between Mian Shehbaz and his children and Mian Nawaz’s children, particularly his daughter Mariam. That rivalry is presently quiescent, but it is still simmering.
While all of this is going on, Mian Nawaz will also have to face the revival of the NAB cases against him, the result of one of Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial’s last judgements, which struck down the NAB law amendments by the Shehbaz coalition. There has been some talk that the establishment wants to bring back the PML(N), but at the moment that seems more wishful thinking than anything else.