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LAHORE: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif does not require a fresh election to become president of the ruling party after the passage of the Election Bill 2017 as he will automatically re-assume the charge after its notification, says the PML-N.

The prospects of Nawaz’s restoration to the coveted slot seem to have soothed the nerves of many in the party in times of trial.

Senator Sardar Yaqoob Nasar from Balochistan has been serving as party’s acting head since Nawaz Sharif was barred from holding the office after being disqualified under the Panama Papers verdict.

“Mr Sharif will re-assume the charge of PML-N president after the notification of the Election Bill 2017,” Senator Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn here on Saturday. He said the National Assembly had already approved this bill and now there was no hurdle in the process.

“The PML-N will not hold party election for the slot of the president and Mian Sahib will retain it (after the bill’s notification),” he said.

The bill was passed on Friday with a majority vote by the Senate through which the legal bar on a person to serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is either not qualified to be, or disqualified from being, elected as a member of parliament under Article 63 of the Constitution is set to go.

Supreme Court Advocate Mubeen Qazi told Dawn that Mr Sharif stood elected (party president) after the notification of the Election Bill 2017 provided he himself did not resign or the Election Commission of Pakistan did not de-notify him. Neither Mr Sharif resigned as party president after the apex court’s decision to disqualify him on July 28 nor did the ECP de-notify him as party head. The ECP, however, disqualified him as an MNA.

“If the ECP only de-notified Mr Sharif as MNA (and not as party president), he does not require to go for top slot re-election,” Mr Qazi said.

Senator Rashid was critical of the PPP saying this electoral reform was not aimed at any particular person (Nawaz Sharif). “It was first introduced in the Constitution by military dictator Gen Ayub Khan and later omitted by Z.A Bhutto. Again a military dictator, Gen Musharraf, reintroduced it and yesterday (Friday) we had it undone. But the PPP has been exposed by not opposing Musharraf’s controversial amendment which its founder had got deleted (from the constitution),” he said.

The PML-N had of late announced holding of election on all vacant central offices at its General Council meeting on Sept 7. It was to elect its new president during the meeting.

According to senior PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq, earlier a decision to elect Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as the party president had been taken.

A PML-N leader (in Shahbaz camp) told Dawn, “just as he missed the chance to become premier, Shahbaz has lost the opportunity of donning the cap of PML-N president now.”

“After making Nawaz Sharif eligible to hold the president office of the party through the amendment to the constitution, it appears that Shahbaz had never been in the larger scheme of things (contemplated by Mr Sharif and Maryam Nawaz) either to make him the interim premier or party president,” he regretted while speaking on the request of anonymity.

The PML-N leader further said after running a successful campaign for her mother in NA-120, the “Maryam group” had started lobbying for her (Maryam) to be a successor to the throne. “And although it would have been a difficult decision to make Maryam president of the PML-N, the amendment has averted an immediate crisis,” he said.

State Interior Minister Talal Chaudhry has declared Maryam “PML-N’s new leader”. “Some people wanted minus-one in PML-N but, in fact, one added to it in the form of Maryam Nawaz who has emerged as new leader,” said Talal.

Nawaz’s Return:

Senator Pervaiz Rashid said Nawaz Sharif would return to the country when doctors in London allowed Begum Kulsoom Nawaz to travel.

“Begum Kulsoom had third surgery for her lymphoma (throat cancer) recently and she is fast recovering. Nawaz Sharif will return once the doctors allow her to travel (back home),” he said. On Saturday, Shahbaz Sharif reached London along with Advocate Mustafa Ramday, a member of his legal team, and is scheduled to hold consultation with Nawaz Sharif on issues such as NAB corruption references. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also met Nawaz in London on Saturday and discussed the matters of national importance.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017