Former Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party has suffered a setback as his close aide, Sardar Zulifqar Khosa, a key leader in the southern part of Punjab province, is set to part ways with him.
As differences between the two men apparently reached a point of no return, Khosa resigned from the post of senior adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif.
Earlier this year, another PML-N stalwart, Javed Hashmi, quit the party and joined cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
Khosa's son, former Chief Minister Dost Muhammad Khosa, on Friday launched a tirade against Shahbaz Sharif, and advised Nawaz Sharif to intervene if he wants to save the PML-N from breaking up.
The differences between the Khosas and Sharifs started last year when Shahbaz Sharif ordered the registration of an FIR against Dost Muhammad Khosa for allegedly murdering his second wife, theatre actress Sapna.
Khosa junior has denied that he killed or harmed Sapna.
"Shahbaz Sharif has different standards for himself and others," Dost Muhammad said, citing the example of Ayesha Ahad, the third wife of Shahbaz's son Hamza, who was reportedly tortured by police for allegedly disclosing her marriage to the media.
"We have given 29 years to the PML-N and when the Sharifs were in exile (in Saudi Arabia), we had held the party flag high," Dost Muhammad said.
He said, "This man (Shahbaz Sharif) is holding the portfolio of 20 ministries and is surrounded by a group of bureaucrats. A party's assets are its workers, not bureaucrats."
He claimed "a good number of parliamentarians" were with the Khosa family and they too have a strong backing in southern Punjab.
A PML-N leader told PTI that Nawaz Sharif was upset at the development and did not want to lose the backing of the Khosa family, which currently has three members in the Punjab assembly and one in parliament.
Without them, the PML-N's prospects in southern Punjab in the next election would be bleak, the leader said.
"While Nawaz Sharif is ready to listen to the complaints of Khosa senior, Shahbaz Sharif has many things in store to defend his position in the face of Khosa's charges," the leader said.
Though the ruling Pakistan People's Party is ready to take the Khosas into its fold, the Khosas will reportedly prefer to contest as independent candidates in the next general election scheduled for early next year.