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Old faces likely to retain most PML-N offices

Updated October 18, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Over 2,000 General Council members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are set to re-elect mostly the old faces as central office-bearers, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as president, during the intra-party elections on Tuesday (today).

Sources in the party told Dawn that no one had submitted nomination papers for the office of secretary general because the party leadership was still unable to finalise the name for the key post.

A five-member election committee headed by Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal received on Monday nomination papers, but surprisingly it did not release the final list of candidates, casting suspicion on the process.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Iqbal, however, said the committee had decided to display the list of candidates after scrutiny of the nomination papers on Tuesday morning just before the start of the General Council meeting which would be held at the Convention Centre.

Citing reasons for not displaying the list, he said they had received only one nomination for many offices and most of the candidates would naturally be elected unopposed. Therefore, he said, the display of the final list could spoil the General Council meeting as the members, who had come from all over the country, could lose interest in the whole process.

Kitchen cabinet

Prime Minister Sharif consulted the members of his kitchen cabinet on Monday to finalise the names of new office-bearers who would be elected for the next four-year term.

According to an official handout issued by the PM Office, the “political meeting” presided over by Mr Sharif was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Information Technology Minister Anusha Rehman, Special Assistant to the PM Irfan Siddiqui and Political Secretary to the PM Dr Asif Kirmani.

Interestingly, according to the sources, one Prince Baloch submitted nomination papers against Mr Sharif for the office of the party president. A number of PML-N members, when contacted, said they did not know the background of the person.

The sources, however, said the candidate would either be forced to withdraw his nomination papers before start of the General Council meeting at 11am or his papers could be rejected by the election committee on some technical or legal grounds to pave the way for the unopposed election of Mr Sharif.

The sources said that besides Mr Sharif, Raja Zafarul Haq and Mushahidullah Khan would likely retain their offices of the party chairman and information secretary, respectively. They claimed that former finance secretary Pervez Malik might be replaced with Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is also reported to have submitted papers for one of the six offices of the vice-president.

The PML-N is, however, set to get a new secretary general as the post has been lying vacant since the appointment of Iqbal Zafar Jhagra as Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

There has been a tradition in the party that most of the main offices are held by those belonging to Punjab.

The secretary general is selected from smaller provinces. Keeping in view the past tradition, the sources said, former KP governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmed and Engineer Amir Muqam appeared to be forerunners in the list of possible candidates for the office.

The sources said that although Amir Muqam had been playing a key role in keeping the party active in KP and giving a tough time to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the province, there was a group within the party which still considered him an outsider as he had served as minister during the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf, when the Sharifs were living abroad in exile.

The people in this group believe that Mr Muqam’s nomination on the key post may not be welcomed by the old and genuine party workers who suffered during the military regime.

The sources said Sardar Mahtab had bright chances of becoming the new secretary general, but there could be a surprise nomination for the key office.

Nawaz Sharif was elected unopposed as the PML-N president in the last elections held on July 27, 2011.

Political experts believe that like other parties, the intra-party elections in the PML-N will merely be a formality to fulfil a legal requirement.

The political parties are required to submit a certificate to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) proving they have conducted intra-party elections in compliance with Section 12 of the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002.

The PML-N had been reminded by the ECP last month that its intra-party elections had become overdue after the expiry of the four-year term of its office-bearers in July last year. Through a notice and a reminder, the ECP had also warned that in case of failure to submit the required certificate, party symbols would not be allocated to the candidates.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2016