ISLAMABAD: Sticking to its tradition of nominating family members of senior party leaders for reserved seats in legislatures, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) list of women candidates, once again, includes names of relatives of those considered close to the Sharif family, causing much unrest among party workers and activists.
For the past two days, there have been reports of protests by women members of the former ruling PML-N in Lahore over the priority list submitted by the party leadership to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for election on the reserved women seats in the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly. A closer look at the official list carrying signatures of party president Shahbaz Sharif shows that their concerns seem genuine.
The two lists — for the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly — carry names of the same faces that were nominated previously, with some little adjustment in the priority numbers.
The list for the NA reserved seats for women has Tahira Aurangzeb’s name at the top, with the name of her daughter and former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb at number four. At number two is Shaista Malik, the wife of former commerce minister Pervez Malik. She was also an MNA in the previous assembly. However, this time, Mr Malik has sacrificed his NA seat for Maryam Nawaz, who has submitted nomination papers to contest the July 25 election from his native constituency.
Women candidates nominated for reserved seats mostly include relatives of senior male party members
Former foreign minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, who has recently been allowed to contest the election by the Supreme Court, has managed to get tickets for his wife Musarrat Asif Khawaja and niece Shaza Fatima Khawaja. Similarly, the party has, once again, nominated Zahra Wadood Fatemi, the wife of former special assistant to the PM on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi, for an NA seat.
Three members of the family of former deputy speaker Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal have been accommodated by the party on the list for the National Assembly. His daughter Zeb Jafar’s name is at number 11, his niece Maiza Hameed is at number 15 and his wife Begum Ishrat Ashraf has been accommodated at number 24 on the list of 27. In order to ensure Begum Ishrat Ashraf’s entry to the legislature, the party has placed her name at number four on the list of the women on the reserved seats of the Punjab Assembly.
Similarly, the PML-N leadership has nominated Rida Khan, the daughter of party’s information secretary and Senator Mushahidullah Khan, for a National Assembly seat again. However, her name is at number 18 on the list.
The party has nominated Kiran Dar, the sister of a party member in the Kashmir Legislative Assembly, Nasir Dar. Ms Dar has previously served as an MPA in the Punjab Assembly.
The PML-N has also promoted former finance minister of Punjab Ayesha Ghous Pasha by nominating her for a National Assembly seat. Ayesha is the wife of economist Hafeez Pasha, who had served as an economic adviser to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and PML-N governments in the past.
While there is resentment within party ranks over the nomination of close relatives of senior male party leaders, the exclusion of former minister for information technology Anusha Rehman, chairperson of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Marvi Memon and former minister of state Laila Khan has surprised many.
“The omission of Anusha Rehman’s name from the list was really a big surprise for me,” said one of the applicants for the reserved women seats, recalling a time when in 2013, Ms Rehman was the “sole authority” on the issue of allocating party tickets to women.
According to sources, Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had a greater role, this time around, in deciding the nomination of women candidates on reserved seats. Apparently it was on her recommendation that Ms Rehman’s name had been dropped, they said.
Sources shared that the former Punjab chief minister was not in favour of nominating Ms Rehman again due to her alleged role in the controversy over Namoos-i-Risalat which surfaced last year after the passage of the Elections Act 2017.
As for Laila Khan’s nomination being dropped, the sources said that the party leadership was not happy that she had gotten herself added to the federal cabinet of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi by using her connections.
The sources shared that Sharif brothers had been taken aback over former PM Abbasi’s decision to nominate Ms Khan to his cabinet without obtaining their consent. They added that Mr Abbasi had told the Sharifs that he had been contacted by a member of the Sharif family, asking him to include Ms Khan to the cabinet.
According to the sources, the party leadership was also unhappy with Marvi Memon as she had posted some controversial tweets about the party’s policies. However, they said, she still had a chance to get nominated to the reserved seats for women from Sindh, which the party has not disclosed so far.
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018