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Once bitten, Sharifs being ‘shy’ about gubernatorial hunt

February 20, 2015

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Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.—AFP/File
Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The appointment of the next governor of Punjab is one decision that is apparently weighing heavily on the minds of the ruling PML-N. It has been three weeks since erstwhile governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar quit the office, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has yet to find a replacement.

The reason for this awkward delay in finalising the ceremonial position, party sources say, is the embarrassment that Mr Sarwar caused to the Sharif brothers, first by calling out the PML-N government for its bad governance and then pouring salt on that wound by joining the opposition PTI camp.

Know more: Chaudhry Sarwar joins PTI

“It seems the leadership is looking for a candidate who is respected in the party and has displayed unrivalled loyalty towards the Sharif family over the years. After the disastrous experience with Chaudhry Sarwar, who was picked despite serious reservations by senior party leaders, the Sharifs are being extra cautious,” a party lawmaker told Dawn.

Although the two brothers are known for pursuing their personal choices, but in the case of the Punjab governor, they genuinely seemed to be consulting other party leaders, he said. Claiming to be privy to a discussion regarding selection of the new governor, the party source said that the few names that had so far emerged had their own baggage, making it difficult for the PM to pick one.

Leader of the House in the Senate, veteran Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, was the first choice, but he refused, possibly because he has his eye on the Senate chairmanship. Being the senior-most and a loyalist, Mr Haq was a perfect candidate, but had his own preferences, another party source said.

Outgoing Senator Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal, who is also the party’s senior vice president, has expressed an interest in the gubernatorial position. However, Mr Iqbal’s opponents argue he already has enough of a foothold in the corridors of power. Two women from his family are in the National Assembly on reserved seats, while a son is a member of the Punjab Assembly.

Moreover, it was Mr Iqbal who had suggested that Imran Khan be made the deputy prime minister in order to defuse the political tension that prevailed when the PTI was camped outside parliament. The proposal did not sit well with the Sharifs at all.

However, as a senior leader from Rahimyar Khan, southern Punjab, Mr Iqbal does have a strong case. Since the PML-N hasn’t awarded a single Senate ticket to party leaders from the region, some in the party believe that a governor from the southern districts will provide a much-needed representation at the top.

Chaudhry Saud Majeed, a former PML-N MNA from Bahawalpur, is another hopeful who wants to stake his claim to Lahore’s Governor House. An old party loyalist from South Punjab, he is an affluent industrialist but not as revered in party circles as his other two rivals. “Even lawmakers from South Punjab aren’t in favour of sending Mr Majeed to Governor House,” a party office-bearer said.

The standard-bearer of the renowned Daultana family, Tehmina Daultana, has also conveyed to party leaders her desire to become the next governor. The veteran from Vehari lost the general elections, but was later accommodated on a reserved seat.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2015

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