As ex-P.M. Nawaz Sharif and his family face further prosecution and possibly arrest under the cases instituted by National Accountability Bureau (NAB), observers are looking for signs of splintering inside the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). The cracks appeared earlier this year in the shape of two ministers who publicly disagreed with Sharif’s policy of defiance of the establishment—read the Pakistan Army. Now another minister, this time from Punjab, Mian Ata Mohamed Maneka, has been heard saying that PMLN politicians will opt to join the rival Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam to avoid becoming irrelevant after the virtual demise of the their party. Unfortunately, the Chaudhry clan ruling PMLQ too has been “NABBED” and have to prove that they are not “living beyond their means,” which can be seen as another smoke-signal from the powers-that-be.
Of course the Muslim League credentials as the “founding” party of Pakistan have been marred by its historical tendency to splinter and metamorphose to suit itself to the latest whims of the establishment. The big bait dangling before the potential party fugitives is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan who often informs the nation in his many tweets that numberless PMLN leaders are abjectly knocking at his party’s door. But the case being built by Mian Maneka can’t be ignored either. However, it is difficult to visualize how the rush to join it will materialize unless the establishment signals PMLQ as its favorite and not PTI. Mian Maneka of course presumes that PMLN has a firm identity preventing its politicians from bending the knee to a larger-than-life leader pledging “across-the-board” accountability after coming to power.
The media, as the bent oracle of the powers-that-be, has signaled green for Imran Khan’s PTI, which has responded by spreading out into Sindh and challenging the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a couple of interior cities where the urban Sindhi is disgusted by current governance. The Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) is being molded into splinters rebelling against the party founder and coming together as “non-migrants” free of the blot of secret links with India’s secret agency, RAW. The TV channels have been, by and large, converted and the line carried by them is not favoring PMLQ as the next ruling party. If PMLN—under Shahbaz Sharif?—loses in Punjab in the coming elections the time to opt for its next identity-switch for survival will be at hand.