LAHORE: Both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif camps in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are “equally satisfied” over the party’s unconditional support to the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, believing the ‘smart move’ will bring ‘good news’ (to the party) in the days to come.
In a talk with some party leaders here and in London on Sunday, Dawn got a sense that the leadership’s decision to vote for the act was a “well thought out move” knowing fully well what the party could get in return (from the establishment) as well as the reaction of the public, especially its voters.
According to them, it is a ‘kind of deal’ as the PML-N is no more on a collision course with the establishment. As a whole, they say the party tiers have taken a sigh of relief on the Sharif brothers’ decision as it would be helpful in ‘ending fight’ with the powers that be — opening new avenues for reconciliation (with them) and getting rid of the Imran Khan government at the earliest.
The leaders considered to be from the Nawaz camp were tasked to do ‘damage control’ on the media after taking them into confidence (by Maryam Nawaz) that under the current political circumstances the leadership had made a ‘right decision.’ PML-N president and opposition leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has also spoken to the parliamentarians and party main office-bearers, directing them to tell the workers in their constituencies that “soon the PML-N is returning to power.”
“What else options the party leadership had other than supporting the act that empowers the prime minister to give extension to the chiefs of three armed services (army, air force and navy)? Could the already battered PML-N afford to go against the Army Act and was it ready for its consequences?” asked a party insider who remained a part of the deliberations in this respect.
“Even if the PML-N had voted against the act (which enabled Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to continue as army chief for another three years), it would have been passed by the parliament in either case. See what happened in the Senate chairman non-confidence move where the opposition despite having majority votes could not oust Sanjrani. In such a scenario, it is a perfect political move by the Sharifs,” he declared, dispelling the impression that some senior leaders, including Maryam Nawaz, PML-N vice-president, were not happy over this decision. “Let me tell you one thing… all and sundry in the party is happy and satisfied, hoping the tough time the party has been facing for more than two years is over.”
Asked about the future of PML-N’s much-hyped narrative ‘give respect to the vote,’ he said: “This was also discussed at length (in the party meetings) and since the party has succeeded in creating awareness (in this regard) and also manages to secure further space for the country’s democracy it believes the public will understand this too,” he said.
Another senior leader said the party leadership had taken “wise” decision considering political ground realities. “How long a party could fight against the powers that be? It is easy to say to stick to your ‘revolutionary philosophy’ but on ground it’s not that easier. Our party’s fresh position may not augur well among ideological voters and we may go in next polls with this ‘scar’ but the other reality is this the people/voters have short memory and they never mind such things. Call general elections tomorrow... the PML-N will emerge the single largest winning party and this is also a ground reality,” he said and argued that Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan after negotiating with dictator Gen Musharraf but later in polls no one cared about this.
The PML-N had never been a “party of resistance,” he opined and added: “It should be given full credit for putting up strong resistance for the last couple of years or so.”
Promise to Return to Power
In the face of the PML-N’s decision to support the Army Act, the word is conveyed to all tiers of the party that the difficult time is about to be over and soon it will return to power and this has generated a lot of excitement among them.
A party leader who met Shahbaz Sharif in London said that he (Shahbaz) would return to Pakistan when he was asked by those who mattered here. “And it is matter of a couple of months. Some promises are made with the PML-N leadership by the powers that be. It will be seen in days to come whether they are kept or not,” he said, claiming that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman did not vote for the Army Act because the promise with him that the ouster of the Imran Khan government would start in December was not kept, therefore he was not happy. “But he (Fazl) has been given fresh assurances like that to the PMLN leadership,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020