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LAHORE: As the PML-N is all set to announce its candidates for the July 25 general election, Maryam Nawaz is said to be seeking a last-minute advice from key party leaders whether she should go for NA-125 or NA-127 in Lahore.

“Ms Maryam is in two minds about trying her luck at NA-125 -- previously NA-120 from where her mother Begum Kulsoom Nawaz won the by-poll in September last. There are (multiple) unfavourable factors in NA-125 at the moment forcing her to think about the NA-127 option,” a source told Dawn on Friday.

Also read: The rise and rise of Maryam Nawaz

“Maryam Bibi is taking a last-minute advice from some important party leaders before asking her uncle PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to finalise her name for NA-127,” the source said, adding that in NA-125 a number of chairmen are not happy with the leadership and are hardly expected to work hard for Maryam’s campaign.

Explore: Will Maryam Nawaz run from her father's constituency?

“Similarly, there has been a biradari vote (Arain factor) which many in the PML-N think may go in favour of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid. Besides, religious vote is likely to go against the PML-N candidate.

“Such factors are forcing Maryam to review her decision and she may deprive PML-N Lahore president Pervaiz Malik of his constituency (NA-127),” the source said.

The PML-N, he said, won the by-poll with a margin of just 14,000 votes despite hectic canvassing and use of the state resources.

NA-127 was previously NA-123 from where Pervaiz Malik bagged more than 125,000 votes in 2013 and defeated PTI’s Atif Chaudhry with a huge margin. This time round the PTI has awarded ticket to Jamshed Iqbal Cheema on this constituency and the PML-N considers it one of the ‘safe bets’ out of the 14 Lahore National Assembly constituencies.

“Ms Maryam has been advised not to take her chance on NA-125 and secure a rather safer seat (NA-127),” the source said.

Keeping tabs on the situation Bilal Yasin, a relative of Begum Kusloom Nawaz, has requested the party leadership to consider him for the NA-125 ticket if Maryam Bibi opts for the other seat. Mr Yasin was elected in 2013 polls on a provincial seat falling in NA-125. He, along with Maryam, had run a vigorous campaign for Begum Kulsoom.

“I have requested the party leadership that if Maryam Bibi decides not to contest NA-125, I should be considered from this constituency,” Mr Yasin said. He said it was his desire to contest NA-125 from where he was elected an MNA in the past.

“Although Mr Yasin had appeared in an interview only for a provincial assembly ticket before a parliamentary board, he seems to have started lobbying for NA-125 after Maryam hinted at contesting NA-127,” a former party MPA told Dawn. He said the leadership would accommodate Malik Pervaiz (and not Mr Yasin) on NA-125 in case Maryam opted for NA-127.

Meanwhile, party president Shahbaz Sharif arrived here on Friday from London after inquiring after Begum Kulsoom who has been on ventilator for the last one week following cardiac arrest.

Nawaz Sharif on Friday described his wife’s condition as “slightly better than before”. Begum Kulsoom was diagnosed with lymphoma (throat) cancer in August last and since then she has been under treatment in London.

Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting of the party leaders and discussed matters related to award of tickets. He said the party tickets would be awarded on the basis of “merit, discipline and loyalty” (with the party).

Mr Sharif was also briefed on the outburst of Zaeem Hussain Qadri, a former spokesperson and minister of his (Shahbaz) government, and his decision to contest independently from NA-133, Lahore. Just the other day Mr Qadri lambasted Hamza Shahbaz, son of Shahbaz Sharif, for his role in ‘cornering’ him in the party and denying him ticket for NA-133.

During Thursday’s presser Mr Qadri had declared that he could not become a “shoe polisher of Hamza”. He also said Lahore was not Hamza and his father’s fiefdom and threw down the gauntlet to them in political arena.

After Shahbaz Sharif’s meeting Waheed Alam Khan, the PML-N’s likely candidate for NA-133, held a press conference and took on Zaeem Qadri. “Qadri should have taken into consideration his 20-year association with the leadership. Hamza loves his workers. However, if Qadri wishes to contest he may not take more than 500 votes,” he said.

RAZA ALI GILANI: Former provincial minister Raza Ali Gilani says he may contest independently from PP-184 (Deepalpur) if the leadership awards NA-143 seat of his area to Rao Ajmal.

“Rao Ajmal has shaken hand with our political rivals to have political adjustment in the July 25 elections. Today I spoke to Shahbaz Sharif and conveyed my concern. If the party leadership awards Ajmal NA ticket, I will contest independently,” Mr Gilani told Dawn.

He said another leader, Ali Abbas, who is contesting a provincial seat falling under the NA constituency of Mr Ajmal, also had same concerns which the leadership should address before announcing the award of tickets.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2018