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Shahbaz trying to keep party intact

Updated August 01, 2018

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LAHORE: Up to 121 MPAs-elect, out of 129, attended the maiden PML-N Punjab parliamentary meeting at party’s Model Town Secretariat on Tuesday, Rana Sanaulla told reporters. He said all members reposed trust in the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif. He said independent MPAs-elect had pressure of “non-political forces” as they were being transported to Banigala.

At the meeting, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif took a pledge from MPAs-elect to stay united whether they form the government or not in the province. Mr Sharif reportedly called the meeting to lift the morale of the MPAs-elect that the party was not out of the race to form the government. The meeting was reportedly called after reports that cracks might appear in the parliamentary party if the PML-N failed to get the required number to form the government.

Read: After 30 years, Rawalpindi no more a PML-N fort

“This is a difficult time and I want everyone to stay united and face the challenges,” Mr Sharif said at the meeting. “Our purpose is not to form the government but to serve the people. However, we are trying our best to form the government in Punjab otherwise we will play opposition’s role aggressively.”

121 MPAs-elect, of 129, attend the maiden meeting

Talking to reporters, Hamza Shahbaz said the party had been in contact with independents and would form the government since it was its constitutional right being the largest party in the province.

He said, “Shahbaz Sharif will do aggressive opposition in the Centre,” and hinted that Mr Sharif would be opposition leader in the National Assembly.

In Punjab, Hamza and firebrand Saad Rafique are in the race for the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly. Most of the party MPAs-elect favoured Hamza as opposition leader in Punjab Assembly.

“The party seems to have conceded defeat in forming the government in Punjab as not a single independent MPA-elect has announced joining the Sharifs so far. Sensing this in the meeting most MPAs-elect talked about nominating the opposition leader,” a PML-N insider told Dawn.

He said since Hamza had yet to establish himself a vocal lawmaker it would not be easy for the leadership to hand him over this important position just being the son of Shahbaz Sharif.

The PML-N emerged as the largest party in Punjab with 129 seats, followed by PTI’s 123 seats, PML-Q eight, PPP six and independents 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. The PML-N insists it is in contact with 13 independent MPAs-elect who have assured it of their support to form government in Punjab.

Rana Sanaullah says the PML-N is very much in the race to form its government as 13 Independents and the PPP would support the PML-N.

PTI information secretary Fawad Chaudhry reiterated its claim that along with PML-Q the party had achieved the required number of Independents to form the government.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2018