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LAHORE: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) move to change Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah and the party (PML-N) president election issue with National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Model Town here on Wednesday.

An insider told Dawn that Nawaz discussed with Ayaz Sadiq and Shahbaz Sharif the PTI’s efforts to replace opposition leader with Imran Khan or Shah Mahmood Qureshi by roping in the MQM-Pakistan.

“The former premier is taking interest in the PTI’s move ahead of the all-important appointment of National Accountability Bureau’s chief early next month (on the completion of the tenure of Qamar Zaman Chaudhry) and later formation of caretaker set-up in which consultation between the prime minister and opposition leader is mandatory,” he said, adding that Mr Sharif did not want the PTI to succeed in its efforts after proverbially shaking hand with the MQM-P, the PML-Q and some other small parties.

“Although Mr Sharif is not happy with the PPP for its role it played in Panama Papers case and the current situation, he doesn’t want replacement at this juncture. The PML-N leaders have been directed to foil this effort (of PTI) as its opposition leader is not acceptable to it,” said the insider.

PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Husain on Wednesday suggested to the PTI if it wanted to change the opposition leader in the National Assembly, it needed to come forward with “solid reasons”. “Opposition parties need to be united and take the decision by taking everyone on board,” he added.

“Mr Sharif also discussed the party president issue in the wake of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s declaration that the PML-N is ineligible to contest elections on the symbol of ‘lion’ for its failure to elect a new president within 45 days of his (Sharif) disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case,” a source told Dawn.

Since the PML-N claims that Mr Sharif does not require a fresh election to become president of the ruling party after the passage of the Election Bill 2017 in Senate as he will automatically re-assume the charge after its notification, the source said Mr Sadiq might have been directed by the ousted premier to get the bill passed in the National Assembly at the earliest. The National Assembly session may be held in the first week of October and Election Bill 2017 is likely to be adopted. Senator Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal was appointed election commission chairman to conduct the election process. The council, the electorate for electing central office-bearers, comprises more than 1,600 members. However, the PML-N deferred it for an indefinite period.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2017