LAHORE: Ignoring past conduct of its four ‘rebel’ MPAs, who were expelled for criticising the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif for what they called ‘fleeing’ the country, the PML-N has accelerated efforts to win them back into party fold to ‘save Hamza’s Punjab throne’ in case it has to go for run-off election for the chief minister’s slot.

Of the four MPAs, the PML-N, however, claims to have roped in two -- Ashraf Ansari from Gujranwala and Muhammad Ghiasuddin from Narowal -- in a bid to strengthen the party’s position in the Punjab Assembly.

Ansari and Ghiasuddin had said goodbye to the party about two years ago and shook hands with the then ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Two of the four dissidents already ‘roped in’

Feeling its position threatened after losing majority in the provincial House, the PML-N appears to have compromised on it’s so-called principle of not taking back the MPAs it had expelled in Oct 2020 for targeting elder Sharif and meeting then premier Imran Khan and ex-chief minister Usman Buzdar, as it is desperate to save Chief Minister Hamza, who faces a challenge from PTI-PMLQ joint candidate, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

Chief Minister Hamza invited Ghiasuddin at his office on Friday and managed to win him back after accepting his demands.

Similarly, Ansari, flanked by PML-N leader Rana Mashhood told a presser at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat here on Saturday that he was not happy with the PTI chairman Imran Khan for “creating divisions” in the country through his narrative. Mashood welcomed Ansari back into the party.

It seems to be a win-win situation for the rebel MPAs, who were ‘generously’ accommodated by Mr Buzdar and now Mr Hamza is there to oblige them further.

These MPAs had criticised Nawaz Sharif for staying abroad and stated that Mr Buzdar had listened to their problems keenly and did the needful.

When Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held a rally in Gujranwala, in which Mr Sharif had launched a tirade against the military leadership, the PML-N workers had surrounded the residence of Ashraf Ansari (in Gujranwala) for becoming a turncoat.

However, the two other rebels -- Faisal Niazi from Khanewal and Mian Jalil Ahmed Sharaqpuri from Sheikhupura – are still in the PTI camp and have announced not to vote for Hamza. “But the PML-N has made a good offer to them as well and hopes to rekindle their lost love for the party of the Sharifs,” a party insider says.

The position of the incumbent CM has been vulnerable since the Election Commission de-seated 25 PTI dissidents last week for violating the party line to vote for Hamza.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2022

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