While speculations continue over who will replace Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified after the Panamagate verdict last month from continuing as president of the PML-N, sources in the party told DawnNews on Wednesday that Senator Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir will most likely be elevated to be president of the party till it decides on a permanent replacement.
Nawaz reportedly discussed Nasir's interim presidency with party leaders in Raiwind on Wednesday and is said to have received no serious resistance to the proposal.
The decision is expected to be announced during a Central Working Committee meeting of the party tomorrow.
Nasir, who was elected senator in 2015 after Iqbal Zafar Jhagra became governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and currently serves as the party's senior vice president, had stirred a controversy last year with his "poor are born to serve the rich" comment in a senate committee meeting.
The party has to comply with an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) notice and elect a new president by Aug 25, the last date for the withdrawal of nominations in the NA-120 by-polls, which Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is contesting for her deposed husband's seat.
After the Supreme Court’s verdict on July 28, the ECP had asked the PML-N on Aug 7 to elect a new chief as election laws do not allow a person who does not qualify to become a member of parliament to serve as an office-bearer of a political entity.
If the party fails to comply, Begum Kulsoom may not be allotted the PML-N’s election symbol — the tiger.
Nasir's elevation, if it is pushed through, will therefore serve the purpose until the PML-N elects a new party leader.
Senior PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq had earlier said that a decision to elect Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as the party president had already been taken.
However, Shahbaz had previously also been touted as the next prime minister, while incumbent PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was to serve as a stopgap arrangement till the Punjab CM could be elected to the National Assembly. The plan changed, however, after some party leaders opposed the “unnecessary” disturbance in the existing political setting.
Similarly, Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq told reporters after a party meeting on August 15 that: “We did discuss all available options for a new party chief but could not arrive at a decision ... we decided to hold huddles for a couple of more days keeping in view various legal and political sensitivities involved with the issue."
Though he did not share details about the meeting, sources said that a new face, other than Shahbaz Sharif, was being considered so that the chief minister could continue focusing his attention on Punjab’s mega development projects.
A party official had also claimed that Begum Kulsoom might be the next party president and that her nomination was pending clearance of her candidature for NA-120 by-polls with the ECP. She was to appear before the returning officer today as her rival candidates had raised objections to her nomination papers.