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LAHORE: Apparently out of race for forming government in Punjab, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is finding hard to finalise its candidate for the opposition leader.

A party insider told Dawn that PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif wanted to nominate his son Hamza Shahbaz for the slot and he had sought his elder brother Nawaz Sharif’s approval during his meeting with him at Adiala Jail (Rawalpindi) on Thursday.

“Whether Shahbaz got the approval from Nawaz or not it would be known in a couple of days,” he said.

“There has been a debate in the party especially the Nawaz camp which is not in favour of Hamza to be nominated either for chief minister or opposition positions in Punjab since his father has already been nominated a joint candidate of opposition for the slot of prime minister against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan,” he said, adding some leaders were of the view that Maryam Nawaz was also not in favour of nominating Hamza an opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and wanted someone else in the party to be given a chance.

“It seems no consensus has been evolved on the name of Hamza within the Sharif family so far otherwise the PML-N might have announced its candidate by now,” he said and added there was also a suggestion that Hamza should be made a candidate for the chief minister slot but someone else in the party be nominated for the opposition leader.

“Since PML-N is virtually out of the race of the chief minister slot after only a single MPA-elect of 28 independents joined PML-N, there has been a question of who should be the opposition leader in the province from the party. The father in the Centre and the son in Punjab will earn a lot of flak within and outside the party. But at the same time Shahbaz does not want to leave the reins of the party in Punjab to someone else and wishes his son to be groomed politically on this position,” another senior leader from Punjab told Dawn.

He said had Rana Sanaullah been elected MPA he might have been an ‘easy choice’ of Nawaz Sharif to make him opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly.

“To set an example that PML-N is not thy name of the Sharifs, Shahbaz should take his son along with him in the Centre and he (Hamza) should leave his provincial seat,” he suggested.

PML-N MPA-elect and former Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad told Dawn that the provincial parliamentary party had given Shahbaz Sharif a mandate to nominate the candidates for the slot of chief minister, opposition leader, speaker and deputy speaker.

“A meeting in this regard will be held in a day or two to finalise the names,” he said.

To a question about delay in nominating the PML-N candidates, Mr Ahmad said: “Deliberations are needed to finalise candidates.” He said in the parliamentary party meeting most MPAs-elect had proposed the name of Hamza for PML-N parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly. “However, Shahbaz Sharif will make the final decision,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018