RAWALPINDI: PML-N aspirants may be lobbying for the offices, but it will be Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who will choose the mayors and deputy mayors of the Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad municipal corporations, according to a local party official.

“And the party members will have to honour the leadership’s choice,” said PML-N City Secretary General Haji Pervaiz Khan while discussing with Dawn the tussle between the competing claimants to the offices in Rawalpindi.

He pointed out that the local government elections were held under the Political Parties Act and those voting against the party ticket holders in the election of mayor and two deputy mayors, stand to lose their seat.

Though a number of candidates are after the party ticket for the mayor’s office, he said the name of the party’s city president, Sardar Naseem, was “on the top of the list”. Elections to the mayoral offices are likely to be held by the end of this month and the local governments installed across Punjab in the first week of March, according to him.

Meanwhile, the itchy party aspirants – five for the mayor’s office and 17 for two deputy mayors – have been lobbying with party heavyweights they think have the ear of their top leadership. They had been waiting uneasily since paying Rs200,000 or Rs100,000 fee, that the PML-N Punjab demanded from mayoral and deputy mayoral candidates respectively, a month ago.

They were to be interviewed by CM Shahbaz Sharif for making a choice. But that process was abandoned after competing candidates appeared to divide the party.

A senior local PML-N leader told Dawn that “the special branch of police was directed to assess the party candidates’ chances and report to the provincial government.” Though the report judged both Sardar Naseem and Sajjad Khan as “presentable” candidates, it favoured the former, he said.

Sardar Naseem has been a jail-mate of Shahbaz Sharif as political prisoners and is considered close to the top leadership of PML-N. That jail term became a badge of honour for Sardar Naseem.

His supporters, on the other hand, consider Sajjad Khan an outsider because he came from the rival PML-Q. They say that when Sardar Naseem was “struggling for PML-N”, Sajjad Khan “blemished” himself by becoming Tehsil Nazim in 2001 on a ticket awarded by Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Ellahi.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2016