LAHORE: As ailing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is leaving for London on Tuesday (today) for medical treatment, his party — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — will push for “one-point agenda” of mid-term polls in 2020 in his absence.

“We want the start of dialogue [among all players] for mid-term polls in 2020 to steer the country out of crisis. In consultation with all political parties, the Election Commission of Pakistan should devise a mechanism to ensure free and fair elections in the country,” PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said after a meeting of senior party leaders in Model Town on Monday. The meeting was presided over by party president Shahbaz Sharif.

The meeting discussed running party affairs in the absence of both Nawaz and Shahbaz. Shahbaz is accompanying his elder brother for his journey to London.

“Raja Zafarul Haq and Khwaja Asif will look after the affairs of the party in consultation with the party president and other senior leaders,” a PML-N leader told Dawn.

Seeks dialogue with ‘all players’ for early vote

He said that in the absence of Nawaz Sharif, the party’s main focus would be to give “tough time” to the PTI government especially in the parliament and accelerate efforts for mid-term polls.

The meeting also decided to hold conventions across the country to mobilise workers and tell the people of the PTI government’s failure on every front.

“One thing is clear that the party has to be run by the Sharif brothers whether they are here or abroad. However, once Nawaz Sharif is out of the country for medical treatment, the party bigwigs will be in a position to focus themselves on different issues,” he added.

When asked was the PML-N again trying hard to become the “darling” of the establishment, he offered no comments. “It’s better not to talk on this matter,” he said.

The meeting also praised lawyers for securing relief for Mr Sharif and prayed for his health. It also thanked the government’s coalition partners — PML-Q and MQM — for pressing PM Khan to allow Mr Sharif to travel abroad unconditionally. The meeting also decided to launch a membership drive in the country.

PML-N Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari who was present in the meeting told Dawn that the party had decided to vigorously pursue mid-term polls in 2020 and not let the government settle anything short of this.

“The PTI allies, PML-Q, MQM and Mengal group, are not happy with the government. No party is ready to share the big failure of the PTI on every front especially the economy as the people are cursing it [PTI] for making their lives miserable,” Ms Bokhari said and did not rule out future political alignments with the government allies in the current scenario.

Talking to reporters, Mr Iqbal said that different suggestions had been presented in the meeting to strengthen the party.

“The PML-N will protest against price hike and inflation. We will take other opposition parties on board against the government’s move to make parliament a rubber stamp and lodge a protest against its ordnance factory (ordinances),” he said.

Mr Iqbal said the opposition would also protest against the Hazara province amendment bill in the parliament. He said the PTI had submitted the South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces bills (in the National Assembly) 14 months ago, but still it was keeping “silence” on the matter.

Mr Iqbal said that Rehbar Committee would discuss the future course of action as every party had its own “Plan B or C”.

Some of the prominent participants in the meeting included Raja Zafarul Haq, Khwaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Barjees Tahir.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2019