LAHORE: MNA Hamza Shahbaz, son of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who was allegedly separated from Kulsoom Nawaz’s NA-120 by-poll campaign by Maryam Nawaz, returned to the country on Wednesday after about one-and-a-half month stay in London and the US.

It is his longest stay abroad since the Sharif family returned to Pakistan from their 2007 exile.

Sources close to the Sharif family said during his stay abroad Hamza only once visited Begum Kulsoom in London to inquire after her, when Maryam was in Lahore.

They said when Hamza was asked to stay out of the country till the NA-120 election none of the elders of the Sharif family intervened. Begum Kulsoom won the seat securing 61,000 votes and the victory’s credit was given to Maryam for her ‘extensive and aggressive’ campaign.

Hamza had also been linked to some PML-N members who allegedly turned inactive when the party’s campaign was in full swing. It was alleged that these members were taking orders from Hamza.

A close aide to Hamza, however, denied the allegation that coincided with Maryam’s accusations that some of the party leaders active in NA-120 had been “picked up by unknown people”, a reference to intelligence agencies.

Neither the Punjab government nor the interior ministry bothered to investigate the matter despite the allegations which were also echoed by the Punjab law minister and federal interior minister.

In the absence of Hamza, Maryam not only took over the control of 180-H Model Town where the MNA used to monitor the PML-N by-election campaigns in the province during the last four years, but she also formed her own team in Lahore parallel to that of her cousin (Hamza). It is said this team would keep an eye on political matters in Punjab and report to Maryam.

A party source reiterated there was a ‘cold war’ between the young Sharifs. “This war for the throne within the Sharif family will further intensify with the passage of time,” he predicted.

Shahbaz’s recent suggestion to Nawaz that he should listen to the old party guards instead of some new entrants who were only after public offices, is also being seen as a hint at Maryam’s core team members like Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry and Marium Aurangzeb.

Despite arriving here in the morning Hamza chose not to attend the PML-N convention at Alhamra on Wednesday which was attended by his uncle (Nawaz) and father to express their gratitude for the victory in NA-120.

In the convention, however, Nawaz congratulated the people of NA-120 on behalf of his wife, daughter and Hamza also.

Meanwhile, Ayesh Ahad, who claims to be Hamza’s wife, also claims “credit” for his departure. Ms Ahad claims Hamza left the country to avoid her case.

Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI) seems to have lost interest in Ms Ahad’s matter that the party had been highlighting to counter the issue of MNA Ayesha Gulalai’s alleged harassment issue.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2017

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