LAHORE, May 12: The stage is set for Shahbaz Sharif to become chief minister of Punjab for the fourth time as the PML-N does not seem inclined to try a new face for the top post in its citadel.
Leaders of the party discussed plans for forming governments at the centre and in the provinces at an informal consultative meeting at the Raiwind residence of its chief Nawaz Sharif on Sunday.
A PML-N leader told Dawn that there was a consensus in the meeting that Shahbaz Sharif was the best choice for managing the affairs of Punjab, the party’s stronghold.
He claimed that the party had earlier considered Chaudhry Nisar Ali for the post that was the reason the Leader of Opposition in the last National Assembly had contested for a provincial assembly seat.
But the rising challenge from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had forced the PML-N to change its plan and decide to continue with Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister to fortify its position in the province, he said.
Shahbaz Sharif himself dropped a hint to the effect by calling himself Nokar (servant) of the people in his victory speech on Saturday evening. He had adopted the title of Khadim-i-Ala (chief servant) in his previous stint as chief minister.
The PML-N leader said that they were contacting other parties to explore the possibility of forming governments in other provinces, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the PTI had emerged as the single largest party. But the PML-N appears to be in a position to form a coalition government there if it manages to rope in the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and independents.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called Nawaz Sharif on Sunday and discussed with him the possibility of a coalition in KP. Later the Maulana contacted JI chief Munawwar Hasan, Aftab Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party and other likely allies.
Answering a question about the formation of the federal government, the PML-N leader said that although the party was in a position to form the government on its own, it had decided to take along other parties like the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the PML-Functional.
About the federal cabinet, he said that in the first phase it would be a ‘smart’ one as the number of its members would not cross the double digit.
Chaudhry Nisar, Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal, Pervaiz Rashid, Mushahidullah Khan and Riaz Pirzada are likely to be taken in the cabinet in the first stage.
About portfolios, he said that Chaudhry Nisar was interested in foreign or interior ministry and Ishaq Dar was likely to become finance minister. Ahsan Iqbal may be given education ministry and Pervaiz Rashid information ministry, he said.