LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will hold the much-awaited meeting of its central working committee (CWC) on Tuesday (today) to elect the party’s ‘interim’ president, after the Supreme Court struck off a controversial amendment to the Elections Act, 2017 which allowed the party’s former chief Nawaz Sharif to resume leadership of the party after being disqualified in the Panama Papers case in July last year.
PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq will preside over the CWC meeting which will be held at the Sharif family’s Model Town residence. Climate Change Minister and PML-N’s information secretary Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn on Monday that the election of an interim president of the PML-N was the top agenda item for the CWC meeting. “Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is a ‘favourite’ to become the party’s interim president on Tuesday,” he confirmed.
“At the moment, there is no candidate for the slot of interim president of PML-N other than Shahbaz Sharif. However, the CWC will hold deliberations before electing the proposed member for the top party post,” he said, adding that the CWC might also propose a candidate for the post of PML-N’s Punjab president, if the younger Mr Sharif becomes the party head.
Mr Khan said that it was possible that CM Sharif would continue as the party’s president if the general council elected him to the post next month.
A close aide to Nawaz Sharif told Dawn that senior party leaders would propose Shahbaz Sharif’s name for the post of interim president of the PML-N. “Since there is a consensus among the party leadership to elect Shahbaz Sharif as interim party president, the CWC members will have no issue in electing him as the party’s new chief,” he said.
Asked if CM Sharif would continue as party head after the interim period of 45 days, Mr Sharif’s trusted friend said: “The party leadership agreed to appoint the same person as interim and full-time president of the party. The party’s general council will elect president of the party after one-and-a-half months as per requirement of the party’s constitution.”
Under the party’s rules, the PML-N’s CWC is supposed to elect an acting party head within a week of its chief’s removal. Then the party’s general council is required to elect a president within 45 days. Mr Sharif was removed from the post of PML-N president by the apex court on Feb 22.
Interestingly, the SC ruling had rendered all decisions Nawaz Sharif had taken in the capacity of the party chief as null and void. This raises a question mark over the legal status of PML-N’s CWC, which has 109 members nominated by Mr Sharif while he was party president.
Keeping this technical issue in mind, the PML-N’s information secretary said that only those CWC members who were elected before the July 28 decision had been called for Tuesday’s meeting.
In reply to a question about whether Begum Kulsoom Nawaz could be considered as a candidate for the top party post, he said: “Begum Kulsoom’s health does not allow her to run the party.”
The elder Sharif may also attend the CWC meeting where the interim party president will be elected. “So far, Mr Sharif has not been banned from attending any party meetings,” he remarked.
Other items on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting are: election of the party’s general secretary, proposing the Model Town residence of the Sharif family as the PML-N’s ‘political headquarters’ for the upcoming polls, and the formation of election boards and cells.
A PML-N insider said that Nawaz Sharif had finalised his younger brother’s nomination for the slot of party president after consulting his wife Kulsoom, daughter Maryam Nawaz, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former information minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid and a few others.
“Begum Kulsoom would have been the best choice to succeed Nawaz Sharif but since she is not well and is recovering from throat cancer (lymphoma) in London, Shahbaz Sharif has become the ultimate choice although some close to Mr Sharif have reservations (about him). Maryam’s name was not considered for the slot as she is too young to handle the party at this stage,” the insider said.
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2018