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Resentment in PML-N over Senate choices

Updated February 11, 2018

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PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq says party tickets have been given keeping in view the association of the aspiring candidates with the leadership and their services for the party.
PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq says party tickets have been given keeping in view the association of the aspiring candidates with the leadership and their services for the party.

ISLAMABAD: There have been growing rumblings of discontent within the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) over the leadership’s choice of candidates for the upcoming Senate elections and the procedure adopted for their selection, as many leaders complained that the party leadership had already finalised the names before inviting applications, Dawn has learnt.

Background interviews with a number of PML-N leaders and workers on Saturday revealed that a majority of those who had applied for the party ticket were extremely unhappy over the way the party leadership handled the whole issue.

“The leadership had already finalised the candidates which is evident from the fact that only those dual nationals who have been awarded tickets had been contacted some two to three weeks back and advised to give applications for surrendering their other nationalities,” said one of the PML-N members whose application for the party ticket was not entertained.

Disgruntled members say leadership finalised some names even before inviting applications and parliamentary board wasn’t formed

The PML-N had invited applications from the aspiring candidates for the Senate ticket with a non-refundable Rs50,000 fee by Feb 6 and sources said the party received more than 110 applications only from Punjab as it expected to win all the 12 seats from the province.

Also deviating from past tradition, this time the PML-N had not formally announced any parliamentary board or invited any applicant for interview. While some party leaders claimed that PML-N president Nawaz Sharif had constituted a parliamentary board during an informal meeting at the residence of a party leader in Islamabad on Feb 6, they confessed that the board members were not provided a complete list of the applicants this time unlike the past practice.

The names of the candidates were later finalised at a consultation attended by Mr Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, daughter Maryam Nawaz, nephew Hamza Shahbaz, Senator Pervez Rashid and others at Model Town in Lahore.

Those awarded the PML-N tickets are former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former Punjab police IG Rana Maqbool Ahmad Khan, office-bearers of the party’s UK and US chapters Zubair Gul and Shaheen Butt, respectively, Mr Sharif’s spokesperson Dr Asif Kirmani, former senator Haroon Akhtar, industrialist Farooq Khan and Hafiz Abdul Kareem, a leader of the Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith and MNA from Dera Ghazi Khan.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s sister Saadia Abbasi and Nuzhat Sadiq have been selected for two seats reserved for women. Federal Minister for Statistics Kamran Michael will represent the party on the seat reserved for minorities. And from Islamabad, the party has awarded ticket to former PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed. The sources said when Mr Butt and Mr Gul had agreed to surrender their foreign nationalities, the Canadian-national Farooq Khan refused to do so. Due to his decision, the party leadership awarded ticket to Rana Mehmoodul Hassan, a former lawmaker from Multan.

Accusing the party leadership of ignoring merit, a PML-N member alleged that the tickets had been given only to those rich people who provided financial support to the party and the leadership during their foreign trips.

Moreover, he alleged that Rana Maqbool, Haroon Akhtar and Mushahid Hussain Sayed did not even possess party’s basic membership. He said by awarding tickets to Mr Akhtar and Mr Hussain, the leadership had rubbed salt into the wounds of those party members who had faced hardship during the military rule of Gen Pervez Musharraf as both the selected candidates were active members of the military dictator’s team.

Defending the leadership’s decisions, PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq and information secretary Mushahidullah Khan said party tickets had been given keeping in view the “association” of the aspiring candidates with the leadership and their “services” for the party.

Mr Khan refuted the claim that the names of all the candidates had already been finalised. He, however, said there was no harm even if the leadership had made up their mind about some candidates even before inviting the applications.

When his attention was drawn towards the criticism on the leadership for awarding tickets to Mr Hussain, Mr Akhtar and Mr Maqbool, the PML-N information secretary said Mr Maqbool had faced great hardships and even suffered jails when he was being pressured by the military regime to become an approver against the Sharifs.

Mr Khan said during a meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee in London in 2007, they had decided that all those who had “ditched the party but had not spoken against the leadership” would be welcomed back in the party. Although Mr Akhtar and Mr Hussain were part of the Musharraf regime, they never spoke against the leadership and thus caused no damage to the party, he added.

Mr Khan said it was true that the party had not followed the past tradition of inviting the applicants for interviews. This time, he explained, they did not feel the need for such an exercise as they already knew about the past and the services of those who had applied for the tickets.

Brushing aside the criticism on the leadership for awarding tickets to the office-bearers of the overseas chapters, Mr Haq said that Shaheen Butt had rendered great services for the cause of Kashmir and arranged several events to internationally highlight the issue. He said Mr Butt had even named his hotel in New York as Kashmir Hotel and always played the role of an excellent host during the visits of the party leaders to the US, the PML-N chairman said.

Mr Haq, however, said he was unaware about Zubair Gul’s background. Dr Kirmani had also stood by with the Sharifs through thick and thin, he said, adding that the candidate’s father was president of the PML’s West Pakistan chapter.

He then refuted the impression that Saadia Abbasi had been given the ticket only because she was the sister of the prime minister, citing that she had served as a senator and worked very hard as a legislator.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2018