LAHORE: For the second consecutive day, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday assailed high-ranking government functionaries, going to the extent of calling for ouster of at least one minister from the federal cabinet.

While speaking at the general council meeting of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) the previous day, he had asked his elder brother Nawaz Sharif to consult the members of the council “instead of listening to the aides or advisers who had misled” the former prime minister “for the sake of some perks and posts”.

In his speech on Wednesday, during a party convention in Alhamra Hall, he lambasted the federal minister who he said was responsible for changes in a sensitive clause of the election laws which dealt with Khatm-i-Nabuwwat.

Speaking at party convention, Nawaz describes difficulties faced by supporters in NA-120

The Punjab chief minister said the minister who had committed the blunder should be shown the door because he had hurt the sentiments of millions of Pakistanis.

During his speech he also raised several slogans in his brother’s favour.

Nawaz, who is scheduled to fly out to London on a PIA flight on Thursday (today), joined his brother in expressing concern over whether the 2018 general elections would be held in a “fair and transparent” manner, asserting that the PML-N would emerge victorious if given a level playing field.

The Sharif brothers based their doubts about the transparency of the next general elections on what they claimed was the manner in which the NA-120 by-poll was held last month. “If the 2018 election is held in a fair and transparent manner, we will see who wins it,” Shahbaz said.

For his part, the ousted prime minister spoke about the hurdles his party had faced in the lead up to the by-election.

The PML-N had earlier claimed that many of their voters had been stopped from casting their ballots. Similarly, many of those carrying PML-N slips had faced difficulty in entering the polling stations.

They also accused “unidentified” people of picking up some of the party’s active workers ahead of the September 17 by-poll.

“We won the election with a margin of 15,000 votes which should be multiplied by 10 because of the (adverse) circumstances [in which] we contested the election. I am at a loss of words to thank the voters of NA-120 as they have not only honoured me but given their verdict against the apex court’s decision to disqualify me [in the Panama Papers case],” Nawaz said, adding that the election result was the “real” verdict in the case.

The small hall was packed to capacity and the PML-N workers present appeared charged. The speeches made by the PML-N leaders were barely discernable in some cases as the workers continued to shout slogans throughout the convention.

The PML-N chief spoke about the passion of the people who had joined his rallies during his four-day homecoming journey to Lahore on the GT Road after he was disqualified from holding the office of prime minister. “Today, if the passion I am witnessing remains, I promise it will change the destiny of Pakistan. Pakistan will move forward and the old traditions will die down.”

As in his previous public appearances, here too he sought a pledge of support from the gathering for what he called his struggle for the restoration of dignity of the ballot.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2017