LAHORE: The PML-N parliamentary meeting nominated on Monday its president’s son Hamza Shahbaz for the slots of chief minister and in case of losing the slot, he would be the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, however, has yet to announce its candidate for the post of chief minister.

The meeting was presided over by the Shahbaz junior in Model Town. Former provincial minister Chaudhry Iqbal will be party candidate for the speaker slot.

PML-N MPA-elect Azma Bokhari told Dawn the parliamentary party had unanimously nominated Hamza Shahbaz for both slots. “No other name in the party came forth against these two positions,” she said, adding outgoing Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal and Chaudhry Iqbal had been asked to decide among themselves who should be the candidate for the post of speaker. “Rana Iqbal said he had served on speaker’s post for the last 10 years asking the other Iqbal to contest on the speaker’s slot.” Three names had been short-listed for the post of deputy speaker and a final decision in this regard would be taken by the party president, she added.

Ms Bokhari further said after being nominated for both slots, Mr Hamza asked the MPAs-elect to stay united and also spoke high of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz in his speech.

According to a party insider, Shahbaz Sharif wanted to nominate Hamza for the slot of opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and had sought Nawaz Sharif’s approval during his meeting with the incarcerated former premier at Adiala jail on Thursday. “There has been a debate in the party, especially the Nawaz camp, which is not in favour of Hamza as the opposition leader slot since his father has already been nominated as the joint candidate of opposition for the post of prime minister. The father in the Centre and son in Punjab may earn a lot of flak within and outside the party. Shahbaz, however, does not want to leave the party reins in Punjab to someone else and finally his decision prevailed,” he said.

The source further said that Chaudhry Iqbal, who served a minister in the Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s cabinet (2002-07) in Punjab, had been pitched against PTI-PML-Q joint candidate Mr Elahi (on the speaker’s slot) hoping to intact his party (PML-N) as well as to attract the rival party’s votes. Mr Elahi whom PML-N fears that he may cause fissures in the PML-N is favourite to bag more votes than the chief minister because of his roots in the rival party.

“The former chief minister (Elahi) has been in contact with those PML-N and PPP MPAs-elect who have good relations with him. They have given their words to him that they will give him vote,” the source said. The speaker and deputy speaker elections are held on secret vote. The PPP has already declared that it would not vote for PML-N candidates.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PTI is leading with 179 seats followed by the PML-N with 164 seats, the PML-Q with 10 seats and the PPP with seven seats. There are four independent candidates in the provincial legislature. At least 186 votes are required to win the chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker slots.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2018