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LAHORE: The PML-N is facing a dilemma in getting the support of either independent MPAs-elect or PPP and PML-Q to form a government in Punjab.

“The PPP that has six seats in Punjab Assembly has expressed some interest in joining hands with the PML-N, but it (PML-N) has yet to succeed in wooing any of the 28 independent MPAs-elect,” said a PML-N leader privy to the development.

The Chaudhrys of PML-Q, who have eight seats now (after addition of an independent), have suddenly assumed a significant role for formation of a government in Punjab -- for both the PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s name is doing the rounds as a potential candidate for the chief minister’s slot in case his party manages to take on board a dozen or so independents, and eventually supports either the PTI or PML-N. Mr Elahi however has made it clear that his party is allied with the PTI and would form a government along with it. In the Centre, the PML-Q has four seats.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, setting aside differences with the Chaudhrys, has tasked senior party leader Ayaz Sadiq with contacting the PML-Q leaders. On Saturday, Mr Sadiq spoke to Mr Elahi over the phone and requested him to support the PML-N, especially in Punjab. Mr Elahi responded that he would discuss with other party leaders and get back to the PML-N.

The PTI, meanwhile, is finding it difficult to get a suitable candidate for the top slot in the province, though there has been discussion within the party regarding Mr Elahi, who has the experience to serve Punjab (2002-07). Mr Elahi has been elected on two National Assembly and one Punjab Assembly seats.

“In case there is no consensus in the PTI on his name, Mr Elahi will prefer retaining an NA seat,” a source said, adding that although the PML-N might also offer Mr Elahi a ‘lucrative package’ in Punjab, it is unlikely that the PML-Q will join hands with the PML-N being an ally of the PTI.

Shahbaz Sharif, on the other hand, met with PPP leader and former governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood and sought his party’s support in formation of a government in Punjab. He could call on Khursheed Shah also in this regard.

The PML-N has emerged as the largest party in Punjab with 129 seats, the PTI 123, PML-Q eight, PPP six and independents have achieved 28 seats in the directly elected house of 297. At least 149 (directly elected) MPAs are required to form a government. With the addition of 66 women on reserved seats and eight minorities, at least 185 members are required to form a government.

PPP Punjab Secretary General Chaudhry Manzoor told Dawn that his party had formed a six-member team headed by former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to contact other parties for formation of governments in the Centre and Punjab.

“The committee will speak to the PML-N regarding the government in Punjab and give its recommendations to the leadership,” Mr Manzoor added.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2018