A group of PML-N leaders held a meeting in London on Saturday with party president Shehbaz Sharif to discuss the party's role in various parliamentary matters, including the pending legislation on an army chief's tenure and the suspended appointments of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Among the members present in the meeting were Ahsan Iqbal, Ishaq Dar, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Khwaja Asif, Rana Tanvir, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, and Marriyum Aurangzeb.
The session was held at Maroush Garden on Edgware Road.
After emerging from the meeting venue, Asif said Shehbaz was briefed on parliamentary issues that arose in the recent weeks as well as non-parliamentary matters that Pakistan is confronted with. "His guidance on these issues was sought," said Asif.
"We will formulate the party's policy on these matters upon our return to Pakistan," he said, adding, "The issue of the army chief's extension cannot be commented upon until the issuance of the detailed judgment."
Asif also said that if fresh elections were to take place, "our stance is that the first step should be an in house change, not for the sake of perpetuating the change but for the sake of holding new elections".
The PML-N leader said the £190 million settlement by the family of property tycoon Malik Riaz was not discussed.
Afterwards, the group gathered at Avenfield apartments to inquire after party supremo Nawaz Sharif's health. A brief press conference was also held following the PML-N members' meeting with Nawaz.
Nawaz's platelet levels still not stable
Shehbaz, speaking to reporters, said a briefing was given on Nawaz's health by Dr Adnan. "A PET scan has revealed that his enlarged lymph nodes need further investigation. Alongside, medicines to maintain his platelet levels are being administered."
He said that Nawaz will return back to his country as soon as doctors permit.
The PML-N president said that the ECP nominations and other "burning issues" were deliberated upon. "Our best efforts are geared towards holding sincere discussions with the government and to develop consensus on electing the best candidate for the job (of chief election commissioner)".
"Our past experience with Imran Khan Niazi has been very disappointing but hoping against hope, our efforts will remain steadfast."
When asked if the rumours that he will be running for prime minister in 2020 are true, Shehbaz negated all such impressions. “Where have you heard such a thing?” he asked the reporter.
“The Islamabad air is thick with such rumours,” the reporter replied.
"There is much else to be seen and heard in the Islamabad air. It is rife with 'magic and spells'. Are you aware of this or not?" Shehbaz remarked.
Ahsan Iqbal, addressing the media, said: "Nawaz Sharif's platelets have still not stabilised. We are investigating as to why this is so. His haematology results have still not cleared him (of any blood-related illness)."
"On discussing the army chief case, we felt that the government is highly non-serious about the issue. A thing which should have been resolved in a routine manner was spoiled and Pakistan and its armed forces were put to shame," said Iqbal.
He said this lends credence to the belief that the government is "either very incompetent or extremely dishonest".
Iqbal said the prime minister was aware of the retirement of the chief election commissioner "but did nothing and let the issue drag on until only a few days were remaining". "The leader of the opposition grew tired and wrote him a letter with suggested names and that's when the Prime Minister House arose from their slumber."
He said that the PML-N in consultation with other parties will develop a consensus for a candidate who will allow the restoration of the ECP's reputation and provide assurances of a free, fair and transparent election.
PML-N spokesperson Aurangzeb had told Dawn before the group’s departure from Pakistan on Thursday that the party leaders would return within a week.
The Supreme Court had in the last week of November allowed Gen Bajwa to serve as army chief for another six months and asked the government to determine the tenure, terms, and conditions of the service of an army chief through legislation within the period.
Meanwhile, the opposition and government are facing a deadlock over the appointments of ECP members, as both sides have failed to reach a consensus on the matter. Though both Shehbaz and Prime Minister Imran Khan have sent their recommendations for the post to the relevant parliamentary committee, an agreement is yet to be reached.
Sources had said the leaders would be mainly given the party line on the issues by Nawaz. “The style of politics of these main parliamentarians of the PML-N on their return will reflect the mood of the elder Sharif,” they had said.