The PML-N is likely to gather strength under Shahbaz Sharif and face the forthcoming elections from a position of strength, despite the loss of Nawaz. Shahbaz has been the face of the PML-N in Punjab and the Chief Minister of the province, where the party has more presence than rest of Pakistan.Photo Source: Dawn
D. Suba Chandran
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore
An edited version of this analysis was first published in the Hindu. See D. Suba Chandran, "In Pakistan, it’s advantage Sharifs", 9 March 2018.
Finally, Shahbaz Sharif has been appointed as the PML-N. This is a landmark development within the PML-N and is likely to catapult the party into the next election.
Nawaz Sharif should have done this last year itself, when he was disqualified by the Supreme Court. Perhaps, he didn’t expect that the Supreme Court will go after him, and find ways to remove him from being the President of his faction of the PML as well. Though it is a different question whether there is enough merit in the judicial verdict, the issue here now is what will happen to the PML-N next.
First, the party is likely to gather strength under Shahbaz Sharif and face the forthcoming elections from a position of strength, despite the loss of Nawaz. Shahbaz has been the face of the PML-N in Punjab and the Chief Minister of the province, where the party has more presence than rest of Pakistan. For the PML-N Pakistan is Punjab writ large; hence, Shahbaz is unlikely to face any challenges in running the party. He has the experience and is acceptable by rest of the PML-N leadership from Punjab.
Second, by nominating Shahbaz and not Maryam Nawaz, the party has taken a positive step. First, Shahbaz is more acceptable than Maryam; though the latter has worked hard in the recent years and is young, the former is more matured and acceptable to rest of the party, and also the people of Punjab. As a Prime Minister candidate, Shahbaz brings a huge administrative experience as the Chief Minister of the largest province, and hence will be acceptable rest of the country as well. At the national level, Shahbaz will be able to carry the party forward better than Maryam.
Besides his experience, Shahbaz also has an added advantage over Maryam. The ongoing cases in the judiciary are not only about Nawaz, but also include Maryam. Any negative judicial verdict against Maryam in the near future will further impact the party’s likely performance in the forthcoming elections.
A larger advantage of Shabaz becoming the party leader vis-a-vis Maryam also relates to his acceptability, especially by the Deep State. Shahbaz was even preferred over Nawaz by the Deep State during the last decade, and this has been one of the open secrets within Pakistan.
Also, unlike Maryam, Shahbaz did not engage in a media war vis-a-vis the judiciary. He remained behind the scenes, silently working for the party.
Third, and most importantly, appointment of Shahbaz as the party President is likely to rally the people of Punjab behind the PML-N. Whatever may be the performance of the party in rest of the other provinces, under Shahbaz’s chief ministership, the PML-N has rallied the province ahead. With clarity in leadership, the Punjabis are less likely to look for an alternative outside the PML-N.
So, a clear projection and road map for the party now under Shahbaz, is likely to rally the entire province of Punjab behind the PML-N. This is also important, given the ascendancy of the extreme right led by the supporters of the JuD and Mumtaz Qadri. Their electoral performance in the recent bye elections, where they have polled more than the PPP and the ANP in Punjab and KP respectively is an ominous sign. A strong PML-N could negate that from becoming a new trend, especially in Punjab.
The above means, PML-N sweeping the elections in Punjab, perhaps returning with a larger proportion of votes than the previous election.
Given the electoral arithmetic, demography and the distribution of seats in Pakistan, if the PML-N succeeds in sweeping Punjab province, in all likelihood, the party will be able to come back to power at the federal level as well – with or without a coalition. Of the 342 seats for the National Assembly of Pakistan (with direct elections for 272 NA constituencies), a party will need 172 seats to form the government. In 2013 elections, PML-N could secure 189 including the reserved seats. The previous elections also had 183 seats from Punjab alone, including 35 reserved seats for women. Though the latest census has resulted in a decline in Punjab’s ratio, the province has lost only seven seats.
Given the level of opposition and the lack of possibility of a coalition amongst them, return of the PML-N is more a reality. Neither the PPP is likely to align with the PTI at the national level, nor the PTI with the MQM in Sindh.
If the Sharifs are able to retain Punjab, then the PML-N should succeed at the national level. The recent success stories for the PML-N in the bye elections in Lahore and Lodhran indicates towards that.
Unless the Deep State decides to strike and run away with the election results with a bizarre political re-engineering. Given Imran Khan’s single objective – to become the Prime Minister by any means, and the cards available with the Deep State ranging from Tahirul Qadri, MQM and Pervez Musharraf, an attempt could be made. But, it is less likely to succeed if the elections remain free and fair. A big if indeed.
However, there have been enough indications within Pakistan, that Shahbaz Sharif is acceptable to the Deep State. So one could expect the Deep State playing it safe, especially in Punjab; it may continue its political re-engineering in Karachi and perhaps in Quetta. But, for the PML-N, both Karachi and Quetta are far, and should be able to let the boys have their own game.
For the Deep State, there are serious global developments as the recent FATF discussions in Paris would reveal. Pakistan’s relations with India, Afghanistan and the US are at a critical juncture. So, the Deep State would rather let the PML-N proceed as PML-S.
Another wild card – is a split within the PML-N. There was an expectation that the former minister for interior – Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will lead a revolt within the party, and the PML will get a new faction. Both the Sharif brothers have succeeded in preventing such a split and also in isolating Chaudhry Nisar. He was not even invited for the latest meeting, where the decision was taken to make Shahbaz as the party leader and Nawaz as the Quaid.
It looks like, there is not going to be another faction of the PML, perhaps led by Musharraf!
Nawaz Sharif is likely to play the victim card, and gain more sympathy for the PML-N. It appears, Nawaz is all set for the same. For the time being, he has stepped back and allowed the party to take forward. So, it is minus Nawaz, but advantage PML-N. Perhaps, the judiciary has done a big favour to the PML-N by being harsh on Nawaz Sharif.
The author is a Professor and a Dean at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore. He maintains a portal on Pakistan – www.pakistanreader.org.
Keeping economy first: China urges Pakistan to keep tensions with India 'minimum'
Economic Times, 26 April 2018 | CPEC/India
Chinese ambassador invites Pakistanis to take advantage of CPEC and Chinese expertise
Dawn, 24 April 2018 | CPEC
46% children in Pakistan are victims of psychological violence
Daily Times, 11 April 2018 | Pakistan
Pakistan is already reaping benefits from CPEC, says PM Abbasi at economic forum
Dawn, 10 April 2018 | CPEC
Opponents of Gwadar Port, CPEC are enemies of state: OPBU founder
Express Tribune, 7 April 2018 | CPEC
Janjua to hold dialogue with civil, military leaders during US visit
Pakistan Today, 7 March 2018 | Pak- US
Demand-driven skills training to help Pakistan reap fruits of CPEC
Express Tribune, 2 March 2018 | Pak- CPEC
Taking a cue from varsities, madrasas also offering Chinese language course
The News, 22 February 2018 | Pak-China
Pakistan looks to avoid being added to terror financing list
Washington Post, 21 February 2018 | Terrorism/ Pak
Pakistan says it destroyed Indian post, killing 5 soldiers
Washington Post, 16 February 2018 | Pak- India
Serious blow to TTP as group confirms Sajna’s death in drone strike
Daily Times, 13 February 2018 | Pakistan
Naqeebullah protest moves to Islamabad, demands end to 'Pakhtun genocide'
Dawn, 2 February 2018 | Pakistan
Parliamentary leaders fail to arrive at consensus on delimitation legislation
Dawn, 9 November 2017 | Politics
Govt, opposition differences over census jeopardise timely polls
The News, 7 November 2017 | Politics
Rustam Shah Mohmand, “Cost of ignoring Afghanistan’s ground realities”
The Express Tribune, 5 November 2017 | Af-Pak
Raza Rumi, “Don’t turn CPEC into another holy cow. Transparency is a must”
Daily Times, 5 November 2017 | CPEC
Rejection of minus-Nawaz fomula shows PML-N’s internal strength
The News, 3 November 2017 | Politics
Security apparatus to continue its role in national interest: corps commanders
The News, 3 November 2017 | Military
Diplomatic row erupts over posting of video about Sheikh Mujeeb
Dawn, 2 November 2017 | Pakistan & Bangladesh
Chinese President Xi’s rise a boost for CPEC, causes concerns in India
The News, 26 October 2017 | Pak-China
Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, “The options for Nawaz Sharif?”
The Express Tribune, 22 October 2017 | Politics
Mystery shrouds US drone strikes near Pak-Afghan border
Daily Times, 19 October 2017 | Drone Attacks
8 killed, 24 others wounded in blast targeting police vehicle in Quetta
Dawn, 19 October 2017 | Balochistan
Sheraz Raza, "The conundrum that is Pakistan-Russia ties"
Daily Times, 16 October 2017 | Pakistan & Russia
Shaheen Sehbai, "Options before the country are ‘very limited’"
Daily Times, 16 October 2017 | Civil-Military
Deadlock in Pak-US ties ends as both sides agree to continue talks
The News, 13 October 2017 | Pakistan & US
US-Canadian couple, three children freed from terrorist custody in Kohat
Dawn, 13 October 2017 | Extremism
If Sharif convicted, Shehbaz will be PML-N candidate for PM slot
The Express Tribune, 8 October 2017 | Politics
Raza Rumi, “Mainstreaming militants? Not without a political strategy”
Daily Times, 8 October 2017 | Politics/Extremism
US State, Defence secretaries to convey Trump’s tough message to Pakistan
The News, 8 October 2017 | Pakistan & US
Seven-hour-long corps commanders meeting discusses security situation
The News, 4 October 2017 | Military
Will resign if I can't find out who deployed Rangers at court: Ahsan
The Express Tribune, 3 October 2017 | Politics
Mubashir Akram, “From the days of Pakistani jihad incorporated”
Daily Times, 3 October 2017 | Extremism
Senator Rehman Malik, “Pak-Afghan conflict — Ray of hope from holy land of Saudi Arabia”
The News, 3 October 2017 | External Relations
Jamaat’s hesitation to quit KP govt delaying MMA’s revival: JUI-F
The News, 1 October 2017 | Politics
Raza Rumi, “Beijing has signaled. Is Islamabad listening?”
Daily Times, 1 October 2017 | Pakistan & China
Talat Masood, “Is mending relations with the US possible?”
The Express Tribune, 28 September 2017 | Pakistan & US
Sohail Warraich, “The Sharifs and the religious right”
The News, 26 September 2017 | Politics/Extremism
Dr Raza Khan, “Decline of some groups means rise of others”
The Express Tribune, 24 September 2017 | Politics/Extremism
Zainul Abedin, "The Panama drama: an unabashedly political view"
The News, 15 July 2017 | Domestic Politics
Imtiaz Gul, "Panamagate: time to face up the reality?"
Daily Times, 12 July 2017 | Domestic Politics
Aziz Ali Dad, "The sectarian spectre in Gilgit-Baltistan: Part - I"
The News, 11 July 2017 | Gilgit-Baltistan
Raza Rumi, "This summer Pakistan enters into another phase of instability"
Daily Times, 25 June 2017 | Domestic Politics
Babar Ayaz, "The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Panama Leaks"
Daily Times, 22 June 2017 | Domestic Politics
Imdad Hussain. "Pakistan left with limited options in Saudi-led Islamic military alliance"
The Express Tribune, 26 May 2017 | Pakistan and Middle East
Houbara bustard no more protected bird, govt tells LHC
Dawn, 11 February 2017, 11 February 2017 | Houbara
JI to observe ‘black day’ for FATA reforms on 16th
Daily Times, 10 February 2017, 9 February 2017 | FATA Reforms
Strict implementation of immigration laws on Afghan border
Dawn, 8 February 2017, 8 February 2017 | Af-Pak
Interior Ministry approves issue of red warrant against Altaf Hussain
Daily Times, 8 February 2017, 8 February 2017 | Politics
22 tons coal get lost on transport by the Pakistan Railway
The Nation, 7 February 2017, 7 February 2017 | Energy
Grand jirga of Khyber elders opposes FATA-KP merger
Daily Times, 7 February 2017, 6 February 2017 | FATA Reforms
Parliament should not outsource justie to the panchayats: Dawn
Dawn, 6 February 2017, 6 February 2017 | Justice
Second Edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) all set to begin
The News, 7 February 2017, 6 February 2017 | Cricket
As Ladla’s brother steps in, Rangers chief vows gang-free Lyari
The News, 4 February 2017, 4 February 2017 | Crime
Asfandyar flays Achakzai for opposing Fata-KP merger
Dawn, 4 February 2017, 3 February 2017 | FATA Reforms
Quetta commission report violates justice: ministry
Dawn, 4 February 2017, 3 February 2017 | Terrorism
India wants to presurize Pakistan through SAARC: Dawn
Dawn, 2 February 2017, 2 February 2017 | Indo-Pak
Chinese frustrated by legal hurdles surrounding OLMT
The Express Tribune, 2 February 2017, 2 February 2017 | CPEC
Work on TAPI pipeline to kick off in Pakistan this month
The Express Tribune, 2 February 2017, 2 February 2017 | TAPI
Opposition boycotts Punjab Assembly uover Hafiz Saeed`s arrest
Dawn, 1 February 2017, 31 January 2017 | Terrorism
"This (action) is part of the international conspiracy": Hafiz Saeed
The Nation, 31 January 2017, 30 January 2017 | Terrorism
Hafiz Saeed among five leaders put under house arrest
The News, 31 January 2017, 30 January 2017 | Terrorism
Court acquits 112 in case of torching Christian homes
Daily Times, 30 January 2017, 30 January 2017 | Minorities
Act against JuD or face sanctions, US tells Pakistan: The News
The News, 30 January 2017, 30 January 2017 | Terrorism
PIA needs another Rs60 bn revival plan for next two years: The News
The News, 26 Jan 2017, 26 January 2017 | PIA
Pakistan tests its first Surface to Surface ballistic missile - Ababeel
ISPR Press Release, 24 Jan 2017, 24 January 2017 | Military
"Pakistan aims for water treaty with Afghanistan": The Nation
The Nation, 23 Jan 2017, 23 January 2017 | Af-Pak
"Islamabad aims to woo new US administration, improve ties": The Nation
The Nation, 23 Jan 2017, 23 January 2017 | Pak & US
Carnage at Parachinar market; 25 killed, 87 injured
Dawn, 22 January 2017, 21 January 2017 | Terror in Kurram
China acquires strategic 40% stake in Pakistani stock exchange
MoneyControl.Com, 21 January 2017, 21 January 2017 | CPEC
Afghan transporters protest against requirment of visa documents at Torkham
Daily Times, 21 January 2017, 20 January 2017 | Af-Pak
HR groups in Punjab shut down for 'anti-state activities'
The News, 21 January 2017, 20 January 2017 | Social
India asked to stop work on Kishanganga and Ratle projects
Dawn, 21 January 2017, 20 January 2017 | Indus Waters Treaty
Pakistan will continue to fulfil its obligations: Dar
Source: The Nation, 20 January 2017, 19 January 2017 | Indus Waters Treaty
Disqualification of PM is a matter of public interest: SC
Source: Dawn, 20 January 2017, 19 January 2017 | Panama Politics
No imminent threat to Indus treaty, minister tells Senate panel
Dawn, 18 January 2017, 17 January 2017 | Indo-Pak
Al-Qaeda-like groups can raise heads again: Pakistan Ambassador to US
The News, 15 January 2017, 15 January 2017 | Pakistan and US
Two Chinese built Maritime Patrol Vessels for Pakistan
The News, 15 January 2017, 14 January 2017 | Pakistan Maritime
Separate laws to deal with terrorists,sectarian elements: Nisar
The News, 15 January 2017, 14 January 2017 | Terrorism
Chinese exports to Pakistan increase following CPEC
The News, 15 January 2017, 14 January 2017 | CPEC
“Activities of Indian RAW and NDS nexus remains a matter of deep concern to Pakistan”
MOFA Press Release, 13 January 2017, 13 January 2017 | Pakistan and Afghanistan
“Citizens will continue to disappear with impunity”: Senator
Dawn, 14 January 2017, 13 January 2017 | Disappearences
New Pak-Afghan border controls slow trade to a crawl
Dawn, 11 January 2017, 11 January 2017 | Pakistan & Afghanistan
Govt to exempt Chinese hydropower projects from sales tax
Dawn, 11 January 2017, 10 January 2017 | CPEC
Banned sectarian organisations could not be equated with other banned terrorist organisations
The Nation, 11 January 2017, 10 January 2017 | Sectarianism
Pakistan conducts the first test of Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) Babur-3: ISPR
Press Release, ISPR, 9 January 2017 | Military
Pakistan to revive the Military Courts
Press Release, Prime Minister's Office, 09 Jan 2017, 9 January 2017 | Terrorism & Military
JUI threatens agitation if decisions `imposed` on Fata people
Dawn, 9 January 2017, 8 January 2017 | FATA & KP
Chinese firm encroached on domain of policy matters: SC
The Express Tribune, 8 January 2017, 7 January 2017 | CPEC
Parliamentary parties give consent to Fata merger plan
Dawn, 7 January 2017, 6 January 2017 | KP & FATA
Ex-COAS Raheel likely to head Saudi-led military alliance
Dawn, 7 January 2017, 6 January 2017 | External
SC to ascertain 'conflict of interest' in PM's actions
Dawn, 5 January 2017, 4 January 2017 | Panama Politics
"Violence-related fatalities in Balochistan, Punjab increased in 2016"
Dawn, 4 January 2017, 3 January 2017 | Terrorism
Tribesmen protest delay in implementation of FATA reforms
Daily Times, 3 December 2017, 2 January 2017 | FATA & KP
Senators press govt to implement Quetta commission report
Daily Times, 3 January 2017, 2 January 2017 | Terrorism
Chaman-Kandahar highway blocked against closure of border
Dawn, 3 January 2017, 2 January 2017 | Pakistan and Afghanistan
First phase of census to cover 11 divisions of four provinces
Dawn, 3 January 2017, 2 January 2017 | Census