LAHORE: No ‘bird’ will fly from the PML-N camp this time around even if its leader is sent packing in the Panama Papers case, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was assured by his comrades in a recent meeting in Islamabad.
But some in the opposition PTI are certain that once the premier resigns or gets disqualified, it is a matter of time that the PML-N will be in “complete disarray”.
“The prime minister has been told by his close aides that gone are the days when his party’s members changed their loyalties in testing times like the Musharraf era. This time around we have spoken to a number of party legislators ‘suspected of changing their loyalties’ but they are of the view that in their constituencies the vote is that of Nawaz Sharif and no one will take the risk of leaving the party because of this fact,” a senior PML-N leader told Dawn here on Saturday.
Rivals pin hopes on ‘post-disqualification scenario’
Some of the premier’s comrades who are not in favour of his resignation have also boasted of likening the post-Nawaz situation to that of Turkey where last July people thronged the roads to thwart a military coup. “All those who are close to the premier are upbeat that if he is sent home the reaction of the people will not be less than that of Turkey’s,” the leader said.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid and PML-N’s disgruntled veteran leader Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa have predicted ‘large-scale defections’ from the ruling party the moment the bells of Mr Sharif’s departure ring. Some of them even put the number of legislators intending to leave the PML-N at around 100.
“A good number of the PML-N legislators in contact with the PTI are awaiting the moment to say goodbye to it (PML-N) as they are opposed to their party’s policy to go into a confrontation with the judiciary in the Panama Papers case. Unlike the PML-N hawks, they want Mr Sharif to shun his stubbornness and resign to let someone else replace him in parliament,” Mr Qureshi said.
He said cracks were visible in the PML-N camp and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s reported episode was enough to prove the point. Mr Sharif better listen to the saner voices in his party and resign forthwith because he had lost both the moral and legal authority to stick to his office after the joint investigation team’s revelations in its report about his and his children’s offshore holdings, he said.
When asked about the PML-N’s confidence that there won’t be large-scale defections this time, he said: “Let the premier go home.”
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the party had “checked” with its members and “I can guarantee that not a single MNA or MPA from Punjab will defect to the PTI or form a forward bloc”.
“This time around things have changed completely. If the premier is sent packing, let me tell you, the PML-N will return to power with an overwhelming majority. “Besides, there will be a very strong reaction of the masses if the prime minister is disqualified... perhaps no one has figured it out yet.”
The minister said the legislators knew the ground realities. “Politicians are smart enough to know the ground realities of their constituencies. The political career of those who left the Sharifs in the past ended. This in not 1999 — public support is with the Sharifs and our party’s men know this.”
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017