PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was first off the blocks in the campaign for the July 25 Azad Jammu and Kashmir election. Starting in the first week of July, he conducted back-to-back, fully-packed rallies, where he issued strong statements against PTI as well as PML-N, before wrapping it up and leaving for the US – perhaps on the hunt for some bigger prize. Then PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz made an entry. She, too, has been attracting large crowds in the towns and villages where she’s been holding rallies. According to political analysts, any national-level leader can attract sizable crowds in the remote areas for the residents of these areas have hardly come across the leaders which most of time have grabbed TV screens. The undeniable fact, however, is that Maryam has electrified crowds with the kind of charisma that her uncle and party head Shehbaz Sharif does not have. The main question on everybody’s mind recently has been about why PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif hasn’t been leading the party’s political campaign in AJK. Earlier, PML-N announced that both Shehbaz and Maryam would lead the campaign but Shehbaz is nowhere to be seen. Instead, he is holding presser after presser in Lahore to talk down the PTI government. Could it be that he’s lost the confidence of his elder brother and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif? According to sources, rally organisers give preference to Maryam over Shehbaz. “Election campaigns are all about hard-hitting speeches in which you knock out your political opponents and deliver popular speeches. Keeping that in mind Maryam is the perfect candidate to lead the political campaign in AJK elections,” a senior party leader from AJK told Daily Times. Maryam’s concerns about certain institutions and personalities are all the rage in political circles that matter. On the other hand, Shehbaz Sharif once again missed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the face of PML-N and control the party in the literal sense due to his indecisive nature and lack of courage to rise to the occasion. “Shehbaz Sharif’s speeches are more like homeopathic medicines which hardly have any impact,” a senior party leader said. But Maryam’s jalsas are damaging her party as well as the position of the state in Kashmir. For example, she claimed in a rally that Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to change the status of AJK from an independent state to a province. This assertion seems misplaced at best because Pakistan’s stance is that the Kashmir issue should be resolved as per the wishes of the Kashmiris in accordance with UN resolutions. If the status of Kashmir is changed, Pakistan would lose out. It is that simple. Such remarks from Maryam could well end up haunting her party for quite some time. Other than Maryam’s own self-inflicted wounds, the PTI has not handled the poll wisely. It has pitched Kashmir Affairs Minister Ali Amin Gandapur to counter leaders like Bilawal and Maryam. But he is simply no match for them. His speeches are actually damaging the party. At a few places, things got so bad that shoes were thrown at him. With only a few days remaining before the poll, PTI needs to revisit its policy of pitching minnows. It seems, increasingly with time, that the only charismatic person the PTI has is the prime minister himself.