LAHORE / LONDON: After in-depth discussions on the issue with the party’s second-tier leadership at two separate meetings, the PML-N on Saturday declared that supreme leader Nawaz Sharif is ready to face “all kinds of circumstances” upon his return from London on Oct 21.

A day after senior leader Ishaq Dar announced they would no longer be demanding for accountability of elements behind the elder Sharif’s ouster from power, both PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz echoed the “new narrative” at meetings held separately in Lahore.

Shehbaz Sharif told the huddle: “Revival of economy, national reconciliation and elimination of terrorism will be the top agenda of PML-N to pursue on the return of Nawaz Sharif”.

Both he and his niece Ms Nawaz categorically said that they would accept no excuse in case of any failure in putting up a good show on Nawaz’s return.

PML-N office-bearers briefed on ‘new narrative’; will prioritise crisis-management over accountability

Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Shehbaz, Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Sanaullah, Attaullah Tarar, Pervaiz Rashid, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Malik Ahmad Khan, Bilal Yasin and Saad Rafique attended the meeting.

Maryam Nawaz also briefed her uncle on the arrangements regarding her father’s return.

The two reiterated that the party’s ‘new narrative’ — no revenge, rather rescuing the country from crises — would be on top of Nawaz Sharif’s agenda.

At the other meeting, Ms Nawaz told the party’s divisional presidents and secretary generals to achieve a ‘certain target’ in bringing the people to Minar-i-Pakistan on Oct 21.

“There was a sense of calmness among party leaders at meetings after learning that the elder Sharif has agreed to give up his narrative seeking accountability of former generals [Qamar Bajwa and Faiz Hamid],” a party insider told Dawn.

He said party leaders appeared confident about the supreme leader’s ‘smooth return’, hoping that he would manage to secure relief from a court of law ahead of his scheduled arrival.

However, participants of the meeting were told that Mr Nawaz was ready to face “all kinds of circumstances” on his return.

The elder Sharif was serving a seven-year jail-term in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case before he secured bail on medical grounds and flew to London for treatment.

“He is expected to apply for protective bail in high court a few days before returning to the country. If he gets bail, he may surrender… later on,” the insider said.

Narrative shift

A day earlier, on Friday, the party had finally announced its new narrative; that Mr Nawaz will focus on the economy and not settle old scores.

Speaking to reporters outside Stanhope House, former finance minister Ishaq Dar said: “There are two choices: either one can fix the country or one can seek revenge and settle scores. Mian Nawaz Sharif will leave the latter to Allah.”

There had been a storm of speculations about the narrative of PML-N ahead of elections and upon the much-anticipated return of Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Dar’s comments came after his meeting with Mr Nawaz, and in response to a question about the party’s narrative.

When asked if there will be accountability of Gen Bajwa, Gen Faiz among others, Mr Dar said,

“Even in the past in 2017, Mian Nawaz Sharif left it to God. That speaks for his heart and thinking. In Pakistan’s history, it has never happened before that culprits have been exposed so quickly. Late Arshad Malik, Shaukat Siddiqui and many other forms of evidence came to the fore,” he said, indicating that Mr Nawaz will not be repeating the statements made in the videos.

“He will use his full strength to put the country on the path of progress and prosperity, and reduce the daily struggles of people,” said Mr Dar, making it clear “the party leader sets the narrative”.

“People can have their own way of thinking. But the narrative is set by him.”

Talking to Dawn after listening to Mr Dar’s speech, a party insider said, “Nawaz may want to go all guns blazing, but there is also something called a reality check. Political parties have to be careful not to misjudge, or do a miscalculation. Right now there is no other potential party to form a government other than PML-N. One can have a certain thinking, but you can’t make the establishment unhappy. Especially over such a non-starter: how can you try just one or two people?”

The PML-N leader added that the party cannot afford to antagonise the establishment as the party’s popularity has fallen considerably over the last 16 months.

“It’s not just Shehbaz. Can your party people take the responsibility on their shoulders of such a narrative? This we saw in 2020 when PDM was formed, after the Gujranwala speech 95pc of the party was scared to say the name Pindi,” the PML-N leader said in an apparent reference to the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

“Were we ready to go all the way? To take the burden? No we were not.”

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023

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