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LAHORE: The PML-N campaign for NA-120 spearheaded by Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday made Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif forgo his Model Town residence’s status as CM Secretariat.

Many see it as a difficult decision for the chief minister who had been using the place as his secretariat for the last nine years.

Following the issuance of a notice by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to the Punjab chief secretary to explain whether 180-H Model Town and Jati Umra, Raiwind residences of the Sharif family have been declared camp offices of the chief minister and former prime minister, the Punjab government on Wednesday denotified the family’s Model Town residence as CM Secretariat.

The ousted prime minister’s daughter had held meetings with party workers and representatives of the constituency last week at 180-H.

Dr Yasmin Rashid, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s candidate in the by-poll, had complained to the ECP about alleged violation of its code of conduct by the Punjab government by allowing the CM Secretariat to be used for PML-N candidate Kulsoom Nawaz’s campaign. Dr Rashid had also drew the attention of the ECP towards what she alleged misuse of the CM camp office at Jati Umra by the workers led by Maryam Nawaz.

Shahbaz Sharif after getting elected the chief minister of the province in 2008 declared five buildings -- 7 and 8 Club Road, 90-Shahrahe Quaid-i-Azam, and Jati Umra (Raiwind) and 180-H Model Town residences -- camp offices. Millions of rupees have been spent out of the national kitty on these two residences of the Sharif family during the last nine years, allege detractors.

“There is no guarantee that the denotification of the CM camp office will bring an end to misuse of public money,” says Dr Rashid.

Sources told Dawn that such a change to the Model Town residence status was not in the scheme of things of the chief minister who and his Hamza would frequently use it for official and political meetings.

“Maryam Bibi has to hold meetings with the party workers for the campaign of her mother Begum Kulsoom and she needs a place which is considered secure and in the centre of the city. Therefore, the Sharifs’ Model Town residence is the best choice,” they said.

Since Shahbaz Sharif could not say no to Maryam Nawaz, a PML-N leader said, he preferred to forgo its status as CM’s camp office to avoid any adverse action by the ECP for violation of the code of conduct. He said the elder Sharif (Nawaz) had given direction to Shahbaz to extend full cooperation to Maryam in the election campaign.

“Shahbaz Sharif seems to understand that he will have to cooperate with his niece till the election on Sept 17. Also, he would like to go the extra mile to shed any impression that the Punjab government is using state resources to influence the election,” he said.

Dr Yasmin Rashid alleges that the officials and legislators of the federal and Punjab governments are blatantly violating the ECP code of conduct.

Amid reports about rift in the ruling party, Shahbaz’s wife Tehmina Durrani had some time ago asked Nawaz Sharif to “spare his husband the responsibility of protecting and assisting his own party’s rally from Islamabad to Lahore.” In a series of tweets, she also hit out at ousted prime minister’s team of advisers.

Meanwhile, some camp followers of the chief minister questioned why Maryam Nawaz insisted on having the Model Town residence for the campaign of Begum Kulsoom who is at the moment undergoing treatment for throat cancer (lymphoma) in London.

On Wednesday, Maryam visited Mohni Road area and spoke to the workers. She harped on alleged conspiracies hatched to oust her father and asked the voters to “ensure sanctity of the ballot by voting for her mother on Sept 17.”

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2017