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LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s central executive committee has unanimously nominated PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif a candidate for the slot of prime minister against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imram Khan.

“The PML-N CEC on Monday nominated Shahbaz Sharif a candidate of the prime minister unanimously. As our allied parties — PPP, ANP and MMA — had already asked us to nominate the candidate from PML-N, the party’s CEC proposed Mr Sharif’s name. We are in the race and will not make it easy for Imran Khan to get the top slot,” PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn after the party’s meeting here in Model Town.

When asked if Mr Sharif did not succeed, would he be a joint candidate for the post of the opposition leader in the National Assembly, the former information minister said: “It is likely, but a final decision will be made in consultation with the allied parties in this respect.”

Ex-CM of Punjab is joint candidate of opposition

Earlier, the names of PML-N stalwarts Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal were also doing the rounds as potential candidates for the slot of prime minister, but no one in the CEC meeting proposed their names. “PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif has also been consulted on the nomination of Shahbaz Sharif,” she added.

The PML-N, Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal had earlier decided to field candidates jointly for the posts of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. According to the decision by these parties, candidate for the PM slot would be from the PML-N, speaker from the PPP and deputy speaker from the MMA. PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah is a candidate for the speaker slot.

Ms Aurangzeb said the party meeting that lasted five hours also discussed ‘stolen mandate’, failure of the Results Transmission System, inefficiency of the Election Commission of Pakistan and curbs on the media. “The ECP has not handed over Form-45 (result of the count) to candidates. On Aug 8, the PML-N and allied parties on the platform of Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Election will hold a demonstration outside the ECP office. All PML-N candidates will take part in it,” she said, adding that Imran Khan had first announced investigation into the constituencies on the complaint of rigging but now he backtracked.

She said Shahbaz Sharif had also ordered preparation of a white paper on rigging in the polls and it would soon be presented before the media.

The PML-N CEC could not finalise the name for the chief minister slot in Punjab as it required detailed deliberations. “A party meeting to nominate candidate for the chief minister slot will be held on Wednesday,” Ms Aurangzeb said.

A source privy to the development told Dawn that Shahbaz Sharif wanted to nominate his son Hamza Shahbaz for the top slot in the province. “The Shahbaz camp has already started preparing ground for the nomination of Hamza as chief minister. However, the Nawaz group is not in favour of handing over both parliamentary heads to the father and the son at the Centre and in Punjab,” he said.

Talking to reporters, former Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad said the PML-N was in contact with independent MPAs-elect and would try to form the government in Punjab. He said Hamza Shahbaz could be a candidate for the chief minister or opposition leader (in Punjab Assembly). He accused the PTI of wooing the independents on the promise of making them cabinet members.

The PML-N has virtually stopped efforts to woo independent MPAs-elect (who are 28 in number) after most of them have joined hands with the PTI.

The PPP has already announced sitting on opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly. “We have decided in principle to sit on opposition benches in Punjab,” former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2018