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Maryam’s Elevation, Cutting Hamza To Size Two Key Aspects Of Entire Exercise: Murtaza Solangi On PML-N’s Reshuffle

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Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) made some radical changes to the structure of the party this week. Interestingly, the party now has 16 vice presidents, including Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz Sharif. Meanwhile, Hamza’s father, and President of the party, Shehbaz Sharif is currently in London and there are speculations that he might prolong his stay in the British capital.

The most intriguing part of the reshuffle is that Maryam Nawaz now holds an official and central portfolio in the party. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has also been appointed the Senior Vice President of PML-N. Abbasi is also considered a Nawaz Sharif loyalist in the party, and especially after the 2018 elections, he’s been the most vocal PML-N leader against the government and the establishment.

Read the details of changes here: PML-N reshuffle: Shahid Khaqan senior vice-president, Maryam vice-president, Rana Sana to lead Punjab

In the parliament, Shehbaz Sharif suddenly gave up his position as the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Rana Tanveer Hussain was nominated by PML-N as his replacement. Khawaja Muhammad Asif is now the parliamentary leader of the party. Rana Tanveer and Khawaja Asif are both considered Nawaz Sharif loyalists while Asif has been his friend since they were both studying at Government College, Lahore.

Naya Daur discussed these changes and the new political scenario with veteran journalist Murtaza Solangi today and he had some valuable insights to share with us. Here’s what he had to say:

Naya Daur: How do you see the changes in PML-N and the huge number of vice presidents that they’ve appointed?

Murtaza Solangi: I think the party has made these changes in view of the prevailing political situation in the country. The establishment and the Imran Khan government are not willing to give any space to Nawaz Sharif and thus they need to do some aggressive politics. But at the same time, they’ve also accommodated certain ‘doves’ in the new structure. For example, Khawaja Asif is not in favour of an all-out war with the establishment at the moment but he’s been nominated as the parliamentary leader. But he is different from Shehbaz Sharif because the reason behind his restrained behaviour is that he fears that a direct confrontation might pave the way for a direct takeover. He nonetheless believes in tough parliamentary and peaceful resistance.

The new structure however has a more defiant outlook. Rana Sanaullah, for instance, is considered a staunch Nawaz Sharif loyalist in the party. He’s been made the President of the party’s Punjab chapter. Those who are unhappy with the restructuring, like Mian Javid Latif or Khawaja Saad Rafique, have their individual reasons. Saad Rafique, for example, was one of those leaders in the party who were against defiance when Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz returned from London on July 13.

As far as the legion of vice presidents that they’ve recruited is concerned, George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm that ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’. With Maryam on the list of vice presidents, I’d say that some vice presidents are more equal than others.

Current changes are signaling to establishment that if you don’t accommodate us then we are in your face. The key aspects of this entire exercise are the elevation of Maryam Nawaz and reducing the role and position of Hamza Shehbaz.

Naya Daur: Why do you think Shehbaz Sharif has left the position of PAC Chairman? Do you consider the new manoeuvre as sidelining of Shehbaz and camp, or is it a tactical move?

Murtaza Solangi: It’s a tactical move. Shehbaz Sharif is considered to be close with the establishment. But in the current situation, the establishment doesn’t want to relent at all. It does not have a role for Shehbaz Sharif and therefore, Shehbaz doesn’t fit in the kind of politics PML-N thinks it needs to do right now. So they’ve decided to freeze him for now.

Naya Daur: Some people are saying that Bilawal’s recent hawkish approach towards the establishment has forced PML-N to adopt a defiant stance. What’s your opinion on this?

Murtaza Solangi: Bilawal’s hawkish attitude is a party requirement. He’s had to take this position because Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) leadership is being hounded by NAB. Obviously, PML-N might feel that Bilawal could replace them as the main anti-establishment force in the country in the perception of some, but at the same time it also helps PML-N that the resistance against the establishment is increasing with Bilawal also taking a similar stance.

It’s like when Pashtun Tahafuz Movement was too critical of the establishment, Awami National Party, Pakhtunkhwa-Milli Awami Party and Jamiat Ulema Islam were also forced to adopt a somewhat rebellious attitude towards the establishment.

Naya Daur: So you don’t think that PML-N has gone about this restructuring to counter Bilawal?

Murtaza Solangi: No. It is in response to the hostile attitude of the establishment and the PTI government against them that has forced PML-N to change its strategy and don a more aggressive outlook.

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