In what appears to be a move to realign its priority ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the Panamagate case, the Nawaz government has decided to shed its ‘aggressive’ posture and deal with its political repercussions ‘moderately’.
Lately, the PML-N leadership appears to have switched focus from an aggressive political strategy to adopting a seemingly silent approach towards the mega corruption scandal.
Till recently, the ruling party’s top command was all set to actively counter the criticism before it decided what party insiders believe is a ‘go easy’ policy in dealing with the issue.
This change of plan, the party sources insist, aims at dispelling the impression suggestive of unease in the PML-N’s ruling ranks ahead of Supreme Court’s verdict on the Panamagate.
“Staying in the panic mode under tough circumstances simply adds to the problems,” said a PML-N leader. “This comes with a price.”
Panamagate case verdict expected by mid-April
Even though the corruption scandal remains to be the centre of the Sharif family and PML-N’s attention, the ruling lot does not want to project this publicly – that it is feeling the heat of the Panamagate’s hype – which is the reason behind the change of policy, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The panic-driven decisions the party had earlier taken – including a mass mobilisation campaign across the country, workers’ conventions, and populist measures, etc., – may have charged the political atmosphere but they conveyed the wrong message in the party ranks: that the PML-N leadership knew “something is going to happen”, according to a source.
“The trickle down effect was alarming. Their internal talks (in the party) felt that since the Sharif family knew something was coming, it was taking desperate measures. In this context, it was necessary to counter this perception by getting things calm down a bit.”
Moreover, the PM’s planned countrywide visits, especially to Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, to mobilise public support, have been put on hold. Since the last few days, the party leadership is not organising any political activity linked to attracting public support on the Panamagate.
As part of the revised strategy, PML-N leaders – including Ayaz Sadiq, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Abid Sher Ali and Muhammad Zubair – have made media appearances in recent days to contend that their leadership would accept the SC’s decision on the Panamagate in letter and spirit and that the decision “should be out soon”.
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This can be compared to the aggressive statements the PML-N leaders were making in public gatherings in the recent past while putting weight behind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his leadership.
The PML-N’s new ‘cool and calm’ policy has raised eyebrows in political circles. Yet, the party insiders do not see anything ‘fishy’ with the revised plan.
Another source assigned to the N-League’s team dealing with the Panama leaks scandal said the PML-N’s aggressive strategy regarding the mega corruption scandal was allowing the PTI to cash in on the situation by politically exploiting the ruling party’s position.
After PTI Chairman Imran Khan made public statements that trhe Panamagate verdict would set new course in Pakistan’s history by taking to task the ‘corrupt’ ruling family, the PML-N decided not to show “anymore signs of panic”, he said.
The party’s political graph was adversely affected by the desperate measures the prime minister and his cronies initiated in connection with Panamagate, in addition to creating internal unease, the source said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, PM’s Adviser Ameer Muqam said his party was dealing with the Panamagate with a “relaxed frame of mind right from day one.”
“The impression that the Panamagate has made our party to panic is far from reality. We played it cool since the beginning. We know we are not guilty in this scandal so we don’t need to worry.”
Asked about the apparent shift in the PML-N’s policy from holding aggressive political activities to adapting a silent approach, he said: “The political gatherings go on throughout the year as per our party’s priorities. The PML-N is connected to its vote bank on a regular basis. It is not something unusual.”
Muqam said opposition parties, specially the PTI, were trying to influence the court verdict by applying pressure tactics. “They (PTI) can’t digest the fact that we stand undeterred and are acting calmly. They are seriously mistaken. No one can influence the court.”
Courtesy: Express Tribune