LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) high command met at ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Jati Umra residence on Monday and pledged to foil any plans to delay the 2018 general elections or remove Mr Sharif from the party.
The meeting went on for several hours and was attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Railways Minister Saad Rafique and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, with Mr Sharif in the chair.
A PML-N insider told Dawn that the participants had rejected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s demand for early elections, which they see as an attempt to sabotage Senate elections.
The party chief also cautioned the premier and other stalwarts to be on guard for any conspiracy that could cause a delay in the general election and ending up marginalising the party in the polls, he said. He said they had also pledged not to accept a minus-one formula that excluded Nawaz Sharif, and promised to foil any efforts to push for it.
“It was agreed in the meeting that Mr Sharif would not only address public rallies in the coming days to mobilise workers but also take measures to keep the party intact, address the grievances of some disgruntled leaders...The prime minister, the chief minister and important cabinet members will play their roles in this respect,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Minister Saad Rafique said holding an early election would not be possible even if all parties agreed to it, because it might lead to a constitutional crisis. “As the census is carried out and a constitutional amendment has to be taken place, early elections are not possible,” he said, while adding that a few months were needed to affect the constitutional amendment for new delimitations even though a few months were left before the 2018 general election. “Those talking about holding an early election are living a fool’s paradise,” he said.
Mr Rafique complained about the Pakistan Peoples Party’s attitude regarding the constitutional amendment in the light of the census result. “If the PPP agreed [to the legislation for delimitations] then there would be no constitutional or legal hitch in holding the election on time,” he said, adding that they hoped that the matter would be resolved in the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
PPP information secretary Chaudhry Manzoor told Dawn that the 2017 census report would be accepted after a gazette notification was issued. “We want the PML-N government to address our concerns over the census result. In fact the PML-N is more concerned in getting the passage of clause 203 of the Elections Reforms Bill, 2017 in the National Assembly that had made Mr Sharif the PML-N chief again. For that reason it needs the PPP’s support,” Mr Mazoor said.
Mr Rafique, however, said that the PML-N was in contact with all parties to discuss the matter.
Participants of the meeting decided that Mr Sharif would address public rallies across the country. “Next Sunday, Mian sahib will address a rally in Abbotabad...Party meetings will be held at the divisional level and the party’s central parliamentary board will also be constituted shortly. We will complete the formation of the central executive committee this month,” he said.
The minister said whenever the Senate elections drew nearer, rumours that the government would be sent packing started making the rounds. “But the Senate elections will be held on time (in March) as it is a constitutional requirement.”
To a question, Mr Rafique said: “Nawaz Sharif was punished for bringing CPEC to the country, for improving the economy, controlling load shedding and ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution.” To another question, he said he had never taken on any state institution or issued warnings to anyone. The minister said what the MQM-P and PSP chiefs – Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal – had said about the establishment’s role in brokering a deal between them should be taken seriously and investigated.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2017