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LAHORE: The PML-N believes that not going into confrontation with the powers that be on some issues earlier was in fact a ‘wise move’ by its Quaid Nawaz Sharif as the decision helped the party tackle basic issues -- energy crisis and terrorism – that eventually set a ‘perfect platform’ for it to go into July 25 general elections confidently.

“Had we confronted those powers at the time when Mr Sharif was asked to step down (by a premier spy agency chief) during Imran-Qadri Islamabad sit-ins in August 2014 or on the news leaks issue in October 2016, the PML-N government’s crusade against terrorism and loadshedding of electricity and gas would have been left in the middle."

"Now we have addressed both these major issues comprehensively, therefore, despite all tactics being used to make Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf a favourite for the coming polls, the PML-N will emerge victorious. If someone has any doubt, hold an independent survey to verify our claim," PML-N Information Secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan said talking to Dawn on Sunday.

“Although former premier Nawaz Sharif was not allowed to complete his constitutional term and sent home by the apex court in the Panam Papers case, yet despite numerous challenges the PML-N has completed its tenure. It is our success that at the end of the day the PML-N government has met major challenges the country was facing,” Mr Mushahidullah, who is also federal climate change minister, said.

Nawaz Sharif had recently disclosed that an intelligence agency chief had sent him a message to either step down or go on leave during PTI-PAT sit-ins in 2014.

The senator said Mr Sharif had almost done his job by presenting his case before the public about what was happening to him and his party.

“People are fully convinced. See our party’s rallies. See outpouring of emotions in these rallies. It speaks all about the public pulse.”

He insisted that the party’s strong base in Punjab had not been affected despite the defections by “a bunch of opportunists”.

“The issue of defections is being propagated in a way (to create a perception) that the PML-N has lost many ‘electables’. But all those who have left it to join the PTI were neither its old guards nor true ‘electables’. Recently, 121 MNAs attended the party’s parliamentary meeting chaired by Shahbaz Sharif that showed where the party stood today. There has been no panic at all in the party ranks in the face of defections,” he said.

According to the PML-N’s calculations, he said, “It was sweeping Punjab, winning a good number of seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and putting up not a bad show even in Karachi and Balochistan in the coming polls.

“On the whole, the two-thirds majority for the PML-N is very much insight,” Mushahidullah believed.

When asked the PML-N was used to contesting polls under a ‘friendly’ caretaker setup, would it be different this time around, the minister said: “In 2013 Najam Sethi was the caretaker chief minister who was nominated by the PPP. He had replaced almost every bureaucrat and police officer in the province and despite this the PML-N swept the election. Today the PML-N even has more popularity... so even in a hostile environment it cannot be defeated.”

Similarly, he said, in NA-120 by-poll Begum Kulsoom Nawaz won despite the fact that the PML-N voters were denied entry to some 37 polling stations. “Even if such tactics are used in July polls, they will not affect our majority,” he claimed.

To a question about any possibility of delay in elections, Mr Khan said: “Mishaps can happen any time, but if the elections are delayed it will be an unconstitutional act.”

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2018