The rumours of a rift in the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) seemed to have been gaining ground as the party leadership has warned its members against confronting President Shehbaz Sharif.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the insider told the Express Tribune on Saturday that “the PML-N could not afford any of its members belittling its president Shehbaz Sharif, especially with the election season approaching fast.”
It was long being felt within the PML-N circles that some individuals were trying to “undermine” the party president’s authority by questioning his leadership and methods.
“The party needs to unite all its leaders, voters and supporters if it is to make a comeback in the next elections,” he added.
The insider said a meeting was held in early August presided over by party chief Nawaz Sharif and attended by Shehbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif, Ishaq Dar and a few other leaders to discuss the issue.
“It was agreed even then that the party could not afford any indiscipline in its ranks and files.”
He added that in the post-Nawaz-tweet scenario and especially the reaction of the party leaders in the media, another round of discussion was held to deliberate on the matter on August 6.
He said it was decided that party office-bearers would not be allowed to belittle Shehbaz at any cost.
“The party would issue a show-cause notice to any of its office-bearers for criticising Shehbaz and the leadership.”
The insider said the party was still working out the issue of two narratives that had proven to be divisive.
“However, no one would be allowed to run down the leadership the pretext of two approaches.”
He said whether or not this policy would translate into any action was yet to be seen.
“If the PML-N does not put up a united front and this perception that the party does not have any winning chance is not done away with, it would cost it dearly.”
The insider maintained that in rural areas other than where there was an electable vote base, there was a sizable swing vote that normally went in the favour of those, whose chances of winning and ending up in the government were brighter.
“If this war of narratives continues to fracture the party, it would force many electables to contest polls as independent candidates.”
The insider also claimed that it would also be considered to unify the two social media teams in the party that had been seen taking digs at each other.
He added that a party activist in London was being considered to unify the two sides.
Former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair, also the spokesperson to Nawaz and his daughter Maryam, speaking on the development said internal party meetings were not for public consumption.
However, he added that anyone in the party trying to undermine the president’s authority should indeed be taken to the task.
“After all, the party president is the head of the party. Even controversial comments regarding the party leadership should be avoided at all costs.”
Zubair said the media pushed party leaders to a point where they ended up giving statements that later became difficult to explain.
He added that a difference of opinion was more often than not treated as a war of narratives. “Even I am criticised for going soft on criticism,” he added.