The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is once again locked in internal division between ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ regarding former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s lifetime disqualification by the Supreme Court earlier on Friday.
The former premier’s political survival now hinges on the verdict of the accountability court which is hearing a reference against him on the orders of the top court in Panamagate case. Sharif will have the option to move Supreme Court with the request to end lifetime disqualification on the basis of the accountability court verdict in case he avoids conviction and gets relief from the court.
It is learnt that PML-N’s new President Shehbaz Sharif and his allies believe that the party should wait for the accountability court’s decision instead of increasing confrontation with the judiciary after the Supreme Court’s verdict.
“We don’t have a lot of options at hand than to adopt a wait-and-see policy. Nawaz Sharif will have a chance to move the apex court to have the lifetime disqualification undone if he avoids conviction,” said a provincial lawmaker in Punjab known to be a close associate of the Punjab chief minister.
However, he admitted that the chances for the former PM to get any kind of relief from the accountability court appear slim. “But let’s try to wait for the court’s verdict and devise a strategy accordingly,” he added.
On the contrary, Sharif’s team – with his daughter Maryam Nawaz at the forefront – reportedly believes the party should continue with its aggressive posturing highly critical of judiciary.
“Mian sahib’s possible conviction at the hands of the accountability court appears as writing on the wall,” said a PML-N senator, requesting anonymity.
The senator said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s recent meeting with Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took place on the insistence of Shehbaz. However, it proved detrimental to the PML-N’s anti-judiciary narrative as the party leadership was hardly left with any ground to take on judiciary the way it had been doing.
However, sources in the PML-N Punjab who enjoy close association with Shehbaz defended the PM’s decision to meet the CJP.
“Judiciary will have an important role in the coming months. It would hear appeals regarding delimitation of constituencies… there would be discussions on caretaker setup and conduct of timely general elections. The tension needs to be diffused,” said a Punjab government functionary.
The ex-PM’s allies are not ready to mend fences with judiciary. “Shehbaz may have his own compulsions for not getting tough on judiciary… the only way to stay politically relevant is to get confrontational and seek public support using the sympathy card,” the senator said.