Maryam, Hamza Tussle Over Control Of PML-N Punjab Parliamentary Party

Maryam, Hamza Tussle Over Control Of PML-N Punjab Parliamentary Party
With major political crises brewing in Lahore and Islamabad, the PML-N’s high command has been conspicuously absent from the political scene. Without any clear instructions from the top Sharif's, confusion seems to be the order of the day among the party’s rank and file.

In Punjab, the provincial assembly may soon see a run-off election for the chief minister’s post, but the PML-N does not seem too keen to seize the opportunity. Meanwhile, beleaguered finance minister Ishaq Dar has been subjected to public criticism by his younger predecessor Dr. Miftah Ismail, who feels increasingly vindicated in the wake of Dar’s failing response to a worsening economic crisis.

The PPP has recently been busy wooing ‘electables’ in south Punjab, while the PTI has been preparing for polls. The PML-N, meanwhile, has continued to struggle with its internal divisions. The PML-N seems split in two factions: one led by its newly-minted Chief Organiser and Senior Vice President, Maryam Nawaz, and the other by Hamza Shehbaz, the current prime minister’s son and long considered heir apparent to the throne of Punjab.
For now, the PML-N’s management in the Punjab seems to have been left to its second-tier leadership

Both Hamza and Maryam have remained abroad in recent months. In their absence, the PML-N’s parliamentary party in the Punjab Assembly appears to have become quite enervated. Party insiders say both scions of the Sharif family are expected to return to the country later this month. And with their return, drama will inevitably follow.

“Maryam Nawaz had earlier expressed to her father a wish that she be given the party’s reins in Punjab, as she was interested in the office of chief minister,” a party insider said. But it was Hamza who became chief minister, and he did not bother to include several lawmakers recommended by Maryam in his cabinet. Party insiders have long said that Maryam isn’t happy with her uncle’s politics. Maryam is known to favour an aggressive style of politics, and believes that Shehbaz Sharif’s ‘pro-establishment’ brand of politics has not been workable for quite some time.

“With her new, elevated position, she is now going to oversee the party and its parliamentary affairs in Punjab. Hamza will have to follow her directions,” an inside source said, adding that there could be bitter wrangling between the two cousins over control of the parliamentary party in Punjab in the coming weeks. The PML-N believes that Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi will not be able to secure the vote of confidence sought by Governor Balighur Rehman. A run-off election for his post will follow.
The lack of the senior Sharifs’ direct involvement in the events unfolding in Punjab are also causing disarray within the party

With the Sharif's out of the picture, an array of federal ministers – including Khawaja Asif, Rana Sanaullah, Azam Tarar and Saad Rafique – as well as the PM’s Special Assistant on Interior, Attaullah Tarar, camped out in the Punjab Assembly on Monday and Tuesday to "look after" the PML-N MPAs during an all-important assembly session tied to the CM’s trust vote. They also attended a parliamentary party meeting and assured party MPAs that the Punjab assembly would not be dissolved.

An outspoken federal minister from Lahore also questioned the “poor performance” of Hamza and his team. He was of the view that the PML-N, as the opposition, had failed to give a tough time to the ruling alliance. “Who is responsible?” he asked.

When asked who would be in-charge of the party’s provincial affairs in the absence of Hamza, Attaullah Tarar said a special committee comprising Rana Sanaullah, Azam Tarar and Saad Rafique had been constituted in this regard, and that he (Ataullah) would serve as its focal person.
Many believe the Punjab scenario has been mishandled since summer 2022, which strengthens the case for Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan

There continues to be a sense of unease within the party, according to sources. Many feel the situation could have been avoided if the party's senior leadership was present to “neutralise” any divergent views.

“Usually in these situations, such views are taken to the party leadership, which handles them. Former office bearers express certain views without offending incumbents. Sadly, the leadership required to create such an environment is not there,” a well-placed source in the PML-N said. This has also raised the temperature within the party, as one side believes the party supremo should return to Pakistan, while sources report some quarters inside PML-N are against Nawaz Sharif's return in the given scenario.

It is believed that the Sharif brothers and Maryam had serious business to discuss when they were expected to meet on the sidelines of a donors’ conference in Geneva. The financially-stressed Pakistani government has been forced to order markets, shops and wedding halls to close early to conserve energy.