PML-N bigwigs on Tuesday, during a meeting called to choose an interim party president, elected Nawaz Sharif as "[the party's] Quaid (leader) for life".
Maryam Nawaz confirmed the development in a tweet as the PML-N Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting was underway at the Sharif family's Model Town residence in Lahore.
"Raja Zafarul Haq, Prime Minister Abbasi and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's proposal elicited a resounding approval from [the] CWC," Maryam said.
PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq proposed Nawaz's elevation as 'quaid for life', saying, "Mian Nawaz Sharif was, is and Inshallah will remain the leader of the PML-N".
His proposal, followed by chants of "Wazir-e-Azam, Nawaz Sharif", was endorsed by Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi, who said: "These are the peoples' decisions. The courts had no right to take this decision — this our party's decision."
Shahbaz elected unopposed
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was elected unopposed as the acting president of PML-N after Nawaz proposed his name to loud applause.
The meeting was called following a Supreme Court ruling ordering the removal of Nawaz Sharif as party chief. Party leaders, including National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Punjab Governor Rafiq Rajwana, Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair and Railways Minister Saad Rafique, were present at the meeting chaired by PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq.
PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, however, was not present at the meeting.
Analysis: Choices for ousted prime minister
At the start of the meeting, Nawaz in an unveiled reference to the judiciary asked "[Do you expect that] you keep on taking oaths under PCO and we'll continue to respect your decisions?", referring to those judges who had taken oath under a provisional constitutional order (PCO) issued by the then military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf.
"It is the greatest crime when you leave your country's Constitution and take oath of allegiance to a military dictator. What is a bigger crime than this?" he questioned. "The crime for which you have punished Nawaz is not even a hundredth part [in severity] of taking oath over PCO. It is the biggest crime."
Since his disqualification in the Panama Papers verdict, Nawaz has frequently lashed out at the “PCO judges", holding them responsible for his ouster from the Prime Minister's Office.
The emergency measures kicked in after the Supreme Court on Feb 22 struck off a controversial amendment to the Elections Act, 2017 which had last year paved the way for Nawaz Sharif to resume leadership of the party after being disqualified in the Panamagate case in July 2017.
The judgement issued by the court read: "Under Article 63-A of the Constitution, the position of a party head of a political party that has representation in, interalia, the Parliament has a central role in the performance of duties by the members of the Parliament. For rendering such a role, a party head must necessarily possess the qualifications and be free of the disqualifications contemplated in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
"As a consequence, it is declared that any person who suffers from lack of qualification under Article 62 or disqualification under Article 63 of the Constitution is debarred from holding the position of ‘party head’ by whatever name called and prohibited from exercising any of the powers provided in Article 63-A of the Constitution, as ‘party head’ or any other power in the said capacity under any law, rule, regulation, statute, instrument or document of any political party."
According to 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.
Shahbaz Sharif was tipped as the favourite for the position from the start.
“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,” PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan had earlier told Dawn.
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 Nawaz while he was party president.
Keeping this technical issue in mind, the PML-N’s information secretary had said that only those CWC members who were elected before the July 28 decision had been called for Tuesday’s meeting.