The general elections of February 8 pulled many surprises, the least of which was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) managing to win the largest number of seats despite not having a symbol or even a party.

But another surprise was the poor performance of supposed front runners, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Although the party managed to get 79 seats, it still fell way short of expectations.

So what is the party thinking now? More importantly, what is party head Nawaz Sharif, welcomed back in October 2023 with much fanfare, going to do?

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According to veteran journalist Nusrat Javed, Nawaz is not going to do much. Talking on Public TV, Nusrat Javed said that Nawaz has shut himself off from nearly everyone and can only be enticed to come out for meeting major players, including Asif Ali Zardari. Nusrat Javed said that Nawaz is no longer interested in becoming a Prime Minister once again. “Mujhay kyon bullaya” is the mantra, said Nusrat Javed.

However, a party insider told DAWN that Nawaz is still very much in the running for become the Prime Minister for a fourth term. “As of now, Nawaz Sharif has not been ruled out as a candidate for the PM’s slot. Since the PML-N has to lead the federal coalition, many within the Maryam Nawaz camp feel why shouldn’t [the elder Sharif] take the driving seat,” the insider told DAWN.

The party’s senior leader and one of Nawaz’s close aided, Khwaja Asif, has said that the former Premier is not disappointed with the results of the election in which PML-N did not manage to get a simple majority, leaving it at the mercy of a buoyant PPP for forming the government.

Talking on Geo News, Asif said, “We are aware of the shortcomings but will fulfil our promise of giving relief to the masses after coming into government.”

He also expressed caution about the power-sharing formula that is being talked about, with PML-N ruling for three years and then PPP taking over for the remaining two.
“It would be unwise to hand over the government to another party after bringing stability,” he remarked.

So there you have it. What the PML-N ultimately decides to do is still unclear. Perhaps we will know more as the days unfold.