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LAHORE: A day after his younger brother (Shahbaz Sharif) said all state institutions should work jointly for the betterment of the nation, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in his speech at Sangla Hill on Sunday for the first time since his ouster ‘spared’ both the judiciary and the establishment and focused on his political rivals.

Like her father, Maryam Nawaz, who had vociferously targeted both the judiciary and establishment in her March 11 speech in Rawalpindi, also preferred to lambast the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and PPP’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari at Sangla Hill. Both the father and daughter speaking at a PML-N rally termed Imran and Zardari ‘brothers’ and “two sides of the same coin”.

The party’s old guard Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan recently again advised Nawaz Sharif to avoid criticism of the judiciary and establishment. Both Shahbaz and Nisar in the PML-N camp are opposed to taking on the judiciary and army, believing that such an ‘aggressive style of politics’ would not bade well for the party.

Shahbaz Sharif, after becoming the (full-time) president of the PML-N, apparently has distanced himself from the narrative of his elder brother and niece. In his first public speech after assuming the party’s charge, in D.G Khan on Saturday last, Shahbaz said: “All institutions are respectable and I appeal to the judiciary, Pakistan Army and the parliament to jointly work to meet the challenges being faced by the country.”

The narrative of Nawaz and Maryam is mainly aimed at ensuring “respect for the ballot” and “restoration of justice”.

Both slogans implicitly challenge the military and the judiciary, respectively.

When a PML-N leader in Punjab was asked whether the father and the daughter had ‘agreed’ with Shahbaz and Nisar to “spare” the judiciary and establishment in their speeches till the forthcoming election in July/August this year, he said: “It seems that Mian Sahib and Maryam Bibi wanted to vent their anger at Imran and Zardari for joining hands in the Senate to grab both chairman and deputy chairman slots. However, one never knows if they return to their old selves in their next speech.”

Since the opposition’s Sadiq Sanjrani (independent) and Saleem Mandviwalla (PPP) defeated the PML-N candidates in the contest for Senate top slots, the ruling party had been trying to portray the two main opposition parties as allies in the upcoming poll.

Addressing the rally on Sunday, Nawaz Sharif said referring to Imran and Zardari, “They are bhai bhai (brothers). Those (who were) yesterday calling each other thief and corrupt have joined hands because of the fear of Nawaz Sharif,” he said.

Mr Sharif added that both of his rivals were trying to fool the people. “He (Imran) chanted hollow slogans of a ‘new Pakistan’ and his party (PTI) Senators voted for the PPP candidate. Since they (Khan-Zardari) failed to deliver they have been conspiring against me,” Nawaz said and underlined the achievements of his party’s government during the present tenure.

Maryam declared both Khan and Zardari “brothers and puppets”, saying they would be exposed in the coming election. She asked the people not to vote for them. “If you vote for PTI, it will go to the PPP and vice versa,” she warned.

Shahbaz Sharif’s son MNA Hamza Shahbaz also made a speech, perhaps for the first time in the presence of his uncle and cousin since Nawaz’s disqualification. He declared Mr Sharif, to him, was still the prime minister.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2018