As ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continues his tirade against the ‘invisible forces’, the possibility of a rupture within the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) is becoming more realistic. In an interview published in Daily Dawn on last Saturday, Nawaz was quoted as saying, “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”
The interview was given much attention in India and resulted in Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif trying to play it down; the Chief Minister issued a statement on Sunday, saying that the news report had “incorrectly attributed certain remarks to PMLN Quaid Nawaz Sharif, which do not represent PML-N’s party policy”. However, the very next morning Nawaz reiterated his stance and when asked to comment about his interview asked reporters, “What did I say in the interview that was wrong?”
Shortly after Nawaz’s remarks, the National Security Committee (NSC) rejected and denounced former prime minister’s claim about the Mumbai attacks and the subsequent trial in Pakistan as “incorrect”, “misleading” and “fallacious” and noted that it could have been spurred either by his “misconceptions or grievances”.
In a party meeting on Thursday, several members of PML-N’s parliamentary party reportedly voiced their reservations regarding the recent controversial interview of Nawaz Sharif. The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Punjab and President Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) who was quoted of saying that “whoever arranged that interview is the biggest enemy of Nawaz Sharif”. The party President also assured party members that, “there will soon be softness in Nawaz’s rhetoric on contentious issues”. Shehbaz’s assurances come at a time when deflections from the party are increasing, with most heading the way of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. On Thursday, Members of National Assembly (MNAs) Ghulam Bibi Bharwana and Sahibzada Mohammad Nazir Sultan joined PTI. The two were accompanied by a number of other former MNA’s and former members of Punjab Assembly. The coming days will be a test for the PMLN leadership as it tries to keep its ranks united, despite two visible narratives; one spearheaded by Shehbaz Sharif and one by Nawaz Sharif that aims to target state institutions.