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LAHORE: As ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif arrived here from London on Sunday morning, a leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and close aide to Mr Sharif says that the party chief’s announcement to launch a movement for the rule of law is actually aimed at securing overwhelming majority in the next elections to go for ‘electoral reforms’ in the Constitution for deter­mining the limits of other state institutions.

“Mian sahib’s announcement of launching a movement for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country does not mean immediately going for any long march, sit-in or protest rallies. It has a larger context. The PML-N under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif will reach out to the masses and convince them that this party is the one that is going to ensure respect of its ballot and bring about

major judicial changes in the Constitution required to determine the limits of other state institutions so that in future an elected prime minister is not sent home without completing his constitutional term,” PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn here on Sunday.

Pervaiz Rashid says ex-PM’s announcement is aimed at securing majority in polls for introducing ‘electoral reforms’

When asked if Mr Sharif’s movement was all about going for an aggressive election campaign, the PML-N Senator said: “Some 45 days ahead of the general election are enough for a political campaign. We have a strong organisational structure to reach out the people to send this message across.”

About holding public meetings in Punjab and elsewhere, Mr Rashid said: “The pace of our public meetings will not be that of Imran Khan. Holding public meeting is not the only platform to reach out to the masses. Probably this week a decision on the next public meeting is taken.”

Asked if Mr Sharif was looking for a two-thirds majority in parliament in the 2018 elections, Senator Rashid said: “We along with the like-minded parties will be able after next year’s elections to change the laws that are used against an elected prime minister.”

Before leaving London for Lahore, Mr Sharif again targeted the judiciary for what he said “adopting double standards in handling his case and that of PTI chief Imran Khan”.

Commenting on the apex court’s decision to reject Hanif Abbasi’s petition seeking disqualification of Imran Khan, Mr Sharif said: “I was disqualified in the Panama Papers case for not receiving a salary of a few thousand dirhams from my son’s company. But Imran Khan is acquitted despite admitting that he had made business transactions of hundreds of thousands of pounds through his offshore company Niazi Services Ltd. This double standard is not acceptable and I will launch a movement across the country with full force for supremacy of law and constitution.”

On his arrival on Sunday morning in Lahore, Mr Sharif chose not to speak to the media and left for his Jati Umra residence in Raiwind. His daughter Maryam also returned along with him. On Dec 5, the father and daughter had departed for London to see Kulsoom Nawaz who has been undergoing treatment for lymphoma (throat cancer) there.

Since the Supreme Court’s rejection of the National Accountability Bureau’s plea to reopen Hudaibya Paper Mills reference, there has been a lot of talk in the PML-N camp that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has got a ‘clean chit’ and become an automatic choice of the PML-N candidate for prime minister after the 2018 general elections.

Senator Pervaiz Rashid made it clear that it was premature to discuss who the PML-N would nominate for the prime minister candidate for the 2018 elections. “Nawaz Sharif will decide on this issue when time comes after taking party leaders on board,” he said, adding that there was nothing in the Hudaibya Paper Mills reference that was why it had to be closed.

Earlier, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada and some provincial ministers and legislators of PML-N had urged Nawaz Sharif to make Shahbaz Sharif party head for the greater interest of the party. This move could not get momentum in the party as Mr Sharif became eligible to head his party after the passage of controversial Elections Act 2017.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2017