PML-N's hour of reckoning.

Just a year ago, the party looked indomitable. That is no more the case. The party of the Sharifs, which dominated the country's political scene for more than three decades, is now struggling to keep its foothold even in its bastion. With the Punjab Assembly elections just months away, the PML-N is facing its biggest electoral challenge. The humiliation the party suffered in the by-elections in the province some months ago is an ominous sign.

The prospect appears even bleaker with a lacklustre PML-N-led coalition government in Islamabad presiding over a possible economic collapse. It is the hour of reckoning for a party that has, over the years, been reduced to a family enterprise. It has long lost its status of being a national party and now its provincial fortress is under siege by a rampaging populist force led by former prime minister Imran Khan.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the party, with its top leader living in self-exile in London, seems to have lost its bearings in the fast-changing political and social dynamics of the country, particularly in Punjab. The Sharifs are now struggling to build an effective narrative to counter the PTI onslaught that has eroded the PML-N's support base, particularly among the young generation and the urban middle classes looking for a change in the status quo.

With just about three months left for the critical Punjab elections to be held, time is running out for the party, which still seems to be living in a time warp. The tightening of dynastical control has hampered the party's outreach as well as the induction of new blood in the leadership. It is all in the family, with Nawaz Sharif as the potentate and the younger brother as prime minister of the country and party president.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the party has lost its bearings.

It doesn't end there; the other top party positions are held by the new generation of the Sharif family. The very optics of Shehbaz Sharif being the prime minister and son Hamza the Punjab chief minister (though briefly) demonstrated the family's stranglehold over the party that is supposed to stand for democracy. One wonders why one of the most powerful political forces in the country does not have any other person in its ranks to lead the party in the province.

Being elevated to the position of chief organiser and senior vice president, Maryam Nawaz has now formally been declared heir apparent. It is true that she had long been projected...

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