ISLAMABAD: Choudhry Nisar Ali Khan's reported remarks that only a miracle could now save Nawaz, made reportedly at the last cabinet meeting, have confirmed a serious split in the party, and even in the family ranks.
The issue is whether Nawaz Sharif should resign and save the party or keep fighting until packed off legally by the courts. Major political parties also want his resignation because they think the system could survive even without Nawaz and the Nisar faction of the party, tacitly backed by Shahbaz Sharif and family, also believes so.
A section of the anti-Sharif establishment as well thinks the only option for political survival of Sharif and his party was through his resignation and the argument of this section is politically and legally strong.
According to this argument, if Nawaz remained adamant and was disqualified by the courts under Articles 62 and 63, he would go down disgracefully with a legal ban on his politics. But if he resigned as PM and as a MNA before the courts pass that judgment, he could escape being declared dishonest, retain his moral position and keep effective control over the party.
He could retain remote control of his party as "Rahbar" or "Leader" without an official title and someone trustworthy could continue running the government until March when the PML-N could get the majority in the Senate and then go for fresh polls. When I asked prominent lawyer Farogh Naseem about the legal position in this scenario, he agreed that the constitution can only bar parliamentarians under Art 62/63 and if someone resigns and quits he no longer comes under the axe. Naseem said in the present cases where a lot of evidence has come before the courts, if he resigned the maximum that could be done was to send references or directions against him without actually passing the disqualification him.
That would also earn for the party valuable time as a Nawaz nominee may still be in the PM's seat and some, if not all, heads of key institutions may still have sympathy and help him.
An active Barrister in Islamabad also agreed with the view of Farogh Naseem.
The faction, which is strongly urging Nawaz not to resign, according to Islamabad insiders, includes a lot of those turncoats who have been changing parties whenever a government or political set up is removed or upset.
The members of this faction do not include old and die-hard PML leaders like Zafar Ali Shah who believe they can survive only in the party and cannot join PTI or any other entity. They speak out loudly but still retain their affiliation.
The thinking of Nawaz Sharif and his supporters is that the PM must gain time, delay the court proceedings, launch a number of cases, challenge court decisions and keep on hanging on to the seat of power.
Nawaz does not trust anyone and that is his major issue as he is not certain if he gives up power, how many, in and outside his family, will stay loyal to him.
He also has problems within the family and is not sure how the differences within his family will erupt and put him in an awkward position.
"Nawaz does not want to be dragged in courts and away from a position of strength while others make decisions for him which he may not like," a source close to the family said.
He is worried that when he quits in the Centre, Shahbaz Sharif may retain his government in Punjab and many party leaders may start following his directions after ditching Nawaz.
The Shahbaz family, including his son Hamza and wife TehminaDurrani, have stayed away from the Panama case except for an odd appearance with Nawaz when Hamza went with Nawaz before the JIT. No statements supporting Nawaz have been made by Shahbaz family members who think mishandling by Nawaz have also brought them under the axe of the Panama case.
The issue of mishandling by juniors and young party leaders authorised by Nawaz was reportedly raised by Choudhry Nisar vociferously in the cabinet meeting. He blamed these young Turks for bringing the party in direct confrontation with the Establishment.
Sources claim that Nisar's outburst in the cabinet meeting was not liked by Nawaz Sharif. Some members of the cabinet hit back accusing Nisar of projecting himself in his long press conferences and not defending the government. At one point the attacks became so intense that reportedly Nisar left the cabinet meeting in a huff.
He was hoping that Nawaz will call him privately to discuss his reservations and apprehensions but that also did not happen so Nisar stayed away from the gathering of parliamentarians at the PM House on Friday.
The political options of Ch Nisar are also limited. He has been considered as an ideal candidate to join his friend Imran Khan's PTI but so far he has not done so and may not quit PML-N.
But other than that he has few options. He can form his own forward bloc inside PML-N but it depends how many of the elected MNAs will support him. Many consider him as arrogant and headstrong. He can go into hibernation but that would not help his politics.
If Nawaz quickly decides to use his political options before the SC acts against him, a majority of the present MPs may still hang around.
But a fallen and disqualified Nawaz would be of no use to his family or others.
Published in Daily Times, July 16th , 2017.