ISLAMABAD: The parliamentary party of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Thurs­day reached the conclusion that the ruling party should not go into the coming general elections with Nawaz Sharif’s narrative of “confrontation with the establishment and the judiciary”.

Sources privy to the meeting told Dawn that Shahbaz Sharif, who recently replaced the senior Sharif as PML-N president after the latter’s ouster from Prime Minister House, agreed that the former prime minister should soften the stance he had adopted after being disqualified from holding public office by the Supreme Court for possessing a UAE Iqama (work permit).

The meeting, which was presided over by Shahbaz Sharif at Parliament House, was also attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, besides 121 parliamentarians of the party.

After attending the meeting, a federal minister told some reporters in his chamber that there was a divide within the PML-N as some of the parliamentarians backed Shahbaz Sharif’s point of view while others supported the narrative of Nawaz Sharif.

Shahbaz presides over parliamentary party meeting and lashes out at person who arranged ousted PM’s interview

However, sources close to Information Minister Marri­yum Aurangzeb rejected the claim of the minister and said that no differences or divide in the party were reflected at the meeting.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, one of the senior leaders of the party, was present in Parliament House but he chose not to attend the meeting and instead spent most of the time in the chamber of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

Shahbaz Sharif, who is also chief minister of Punjab, expressed annoyance over the recent interview of Nawaz Sharif with Dawn and said the man who had arranged the interview was “the biggest enemy of Nawaz Sharif”.

In this interview, Nawaz Sharif’s remarks on the 2008 Mumbai attacks were blown up by Indian media. In Pakistan also the interview has caused quite a stir with the former prime minister’s rivals calling for his trial under sedition charges. Undeterred, Nawaz Sharif has suggested constitution of a national commission to make a final decision on the issue.

Shahbaz Sharif urged the PML-N legislators to focus on the elections to be held in July so that the party could fight the elements confronting it these days.

He recalled some important decisions made by Nawaz Sharif and said no party had worked in the country more than the PML-N, adding that four martial laws imposed in the past had weakened the country. “The voters are with us because of our performance and we will go into the polls with full confidence.”

He claimed that former US president Bill Clinton had offered $5 billion to Nawaz Sharif for not conducting nuclear tests in 1998 but the latter had rejected the offer and gone ahead with nuclear tests.

Comparing the performance of the PML-N with that of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, he said, “We have completed the metro bus project in Lahore at a cost of Rs30bn while over Rs60bn has been spent on a similar project being executed in KP.”

According to sources, four to five PML-N legislators expressed reservations over Nawaz Sharif’s interview on the Mumbai attacks and termed it “inappropriate”.

Some of the party leaders from southern Punjab said that their loyalty with the party was doubted and added that they could even sacrifice their lives for Nawaz Sharif but it was not the appropriate time to do so.

Some other legislators said that they had complete confidence in Nawaz Sharif and endorsed his narrative.

The sources said that Nawaz Sharif believed that his party should go into the coming elections with his narrative of “give respect to the vote”.

PM-Shahbaz meeting

Later, Prime Minister Abbasi met Shahbaz Sharif in his chamber in and the one-on-one meeting continued for 45 minutes.

The prime minister also held a separate meeting with officials of the foreign ministry to receive briefing before leaving for Turkey to attend D-8 summit being held in Istanbul on Friday (today).

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2018


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