A house divided

Published October 14, 2017

CHAUDHRY Nisar Ali Khan’s declaration that there’s going to be no forward bloc in the PML-N has come a little late in the day. The reassurance would have made more sense previously when the former interior minister appeared to be the solitary unhappy soul in the party. That was a far more peaceful situation for the PML-N than its conflict-ridden state today. The circumstances now are altogether different, and it is doubtful that a mere sincere statement by a somewhat estranged stalwart of the ruling league can clear the clouds that have collected all around. Many questions are being asked about an outfit that only a few weeks ago went about its business with reasonable confidence, sustained as it was by a big popular mandate and the not-so-bad progress report on account of its development work. In a dramatic turnaround, divisions in the ruling party have surfaced and deepened at a speed which should worry all those who still swear by the PML-N.

Over the past few days, there have been plenty of statements that highlight the various — clashing — strands of thought within the party. These could well have been seen as the kind of diversity of opinion that promotes democracy. But for a political organisation that, like so many others in Pakistan, depends so heavily on its central command for action, the various directions set by a spate of disparate remarks made by PML-N politicians appear to signify unrest within. Ruling party members have stood up in parliament in protest against their alleged monitoring over suspicion of links with extremist outfits. The prime minister and interior minister have distanced themselves from the diatribe of a PML-N MNA — the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, no less. Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself has loudly called for action against PML-N lawmakers after the recent controversy over a change in a law — which could well be a prelude to the chief minister regularly taking positions within the party that would bring him in confrontation with other members, unlike in the past where he was content to simply pledge his support to Mian Nawaz Sharif. Given the way things are in this country, all these instances which project various shades of opinion will eventually feed rumours of more groupings and dissatisfaction within the PML-N. The impression will take much more than a promise by Chaudhry Nisar to clear.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2017

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