Sharif brothers huddle as Hudabiya case gains momentum

(By Sardar Sikander) Hudabiya case brings Sharif brothers closer

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) may be facing a crisis, but the Supreme Court’s move to reopen the Hudabiya Paper Mills case last month has brought the Sharif brothers closer, The Express Tribune learnt on good authority.

The case allegedly involves Chief Minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif.

On Tuesday, Sharif left for London. Before his departure, the PML-N chief held a crucial meeting with his younger brother in which party issues were discussed and it was decided to chalk out a joint strategy in defence of cases pending against the Sharifs in courts, reliable party sources said.

Over the past few days, the two Sharifs held a series of meetings to iron out differences, it is learnt.

Prior to this, all was not well between both brothers because of a deep-rooted feeling in the PML-N’s central hierarchy that ‘certain quarters’ were patronising Shehbaz in a bid to weaken the former PM politically.

However, the reopening of the Hudabiya Paper Mills case has brought the two Sharifs closer. Both have now decided to face challenges with mutual cooperation, sources maintained.

“The reopening of the Hudabiya Ppar Mills case may be a nightmare for Shehbaz — still this has helped bridge the divide between the two Sharifs,” said a PML-N leader, requesting anonymity.

The decision to defuse tensions has also much to do with PML-N leaderships’ efforts to keep the party intact at a time when reports suggest an imminent split in the party.

Some circles believe the number of dissident lawmakers who are “waiting for the right moment” to defect from the PML-N is estimated to be in dozens.

“Amid such grave challenges, differences between party leaderships at the centre and in Punjab were adding to our woes. This was leading the party into a blind alley. It was inevitable to bury the hatchet for good,” the sources said.

However, another lawmaker wondered if the two brothers would continue to stay united in the face of serious differences between Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz. “They (Maryam and Hamza) simply cannot get along … And this can create serious problems anytime, denting the ties between the two elders,” he said.

“But for now, things are looking okay.”

Some senior party leaders, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, are said to have played key role in bringing the two Sharifs together, knowledgeable party members said.

Abbasi held meetings with both Sharifs in Islamabad and Lahore after which the air cleared. The two brothers then met in the presence of the PM in Lahore. These meetings continued till Sharif left for London.

Sources said that the PM and CM Punjab may visit London soon to exchange notes with the PML-N chief on crucial political issues.

Before he returned to Pakistan, Sharif had planned to land in Lahore, but is learnt to have revised his schedule thrice. This had much to do with the former PM’s unwillingness to meet the CM Punjab and his aides, insiders said.

A few weeks ago, the former PM, the incumbent PM, CM Punjab and other senior party leaders had met in London but the meeting did not go as planned.

Reportedly, Sharif flatly refused to listen to the advice of the PM and CM Punjab against his hostile attitude against the state institutions.

Moreover, the former PM was also unhappy with the CM Punjab and his son Hamza’s cold response to Maryam’s reconciliatory efforts.

During the London meetings, Shehbaz was said to have minced no words to caution his elder brother that the way loyalists were marginalised in the party at the expense of promoting ‘paratroopers’ was costing the PML-N  dearly.

The former PM was also urged by his younger brother that he needed to differentiate between those who sacrificed for the party in the past and were trying to keep the party intact and those who brought the party to the verge of political isolation.

Reportedly, Sharif sounded unhappy when he mentioned senior cabinet members and party leaders, including the incumbent Inter Provincial Coordination Minister Riaz Pirzada, who were openly criticising his policies and putting their weight behind Shehbaz amid reports that a ‘Shehbaz League’ was in the making.

tribune.com.pk