LAHORE: PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif attending an important party meeting via video link from London directed its leaders and workers on Saturday to start preparation for elections in Punjab and pledged that the federal coalition would not be ‘blackmailed’ by PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s demand to hold snap elections in the country.

Also, Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman after a meeting with PM Shehbaz said he decided not to sign Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s advice to dissolve the Punjab Assembly.

“I have decided not to become part of the process leading to the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly. I would rather let the Constitution and law take their own course. Doing so will not hamper any legal process as the Constitution clearly provides a way forward,” Mr Rehman tweeted.

It is believed that the Sharif brothers after consulting other party leaders stopped the governor from signing the summary to lend strength to PML-N’s stance that it opposed the dissolution of the assembly.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif earlier presided over the meeting at Model Town which was virtually attended by senior party leaders. Besides the party supremo, PML-N chief organiser Maryam Nawaz participated in it through a video link from London. After the meeting, the PML-N said Nawaz Sharif had made a ‘big decision’ (in the party huddle), directing leaders and workers to start preparing for elections in Punjab.

“Mr Sharif also directed PM Shehbaz to constitute a party’s parliamentary board (for award of tickets). He also asked the participants to go into the polls with full passion, confidence and preparation as the PML-N would have to emerge victorious.”

Punjab governor decides not to sign CM Elahi’s advice

PM’s special assistant Attaullah Tarar told reporters after the meeting that it had also decided not to challenge the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly at any forum. “The party leadership has given a go-ahead for preparation of elections in Punjab and we are going to contest,” he said.

Asked whether the PML-N would go into polls in Punjab along with its allies, especially PPP, Mr Tarar said: “Time will tell about this.”

To a question about the return of elder Sharif, who has been living in the United Kingdom in self-imposed exile since Nov 2019, the PM’s aide said: “Nawaz Sharif has to come and he will.” The stated position of the PML-N on the matter is that the deposed premier will return ahead of general elections to spearhead the party’s campaign.

A party insider told Dawn that Nawaz Sharif was categorical about Mr Khan’s demand to hold snap polls in the country. “Nawaz said…come what may, we will not be blackmailed by Khan’s demand. The general elections will be held on time (Oct-Nov 2023).”

The insider said the PML-N had two working plans at the moment ­­— first to use all tactics to delay the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (through its links in the upcoming caretaker setup and the Election Commission of Pakistan) and at the same time it would make full preparations for the polls in two provinces, especially in Punjab.

As the Punjab Assembly on Saturday evening stood dissolved — 48 hours from the time the chief minister sent the advice to the governor — Imran Khan announced dissolving the KP assembly in a couple of days. “The PML-N meeting’s focus was Punjab which seems to be everything for the Sharifs. Punjab of late remained a stronghold of the PML-N and it does not want to lose it to the hands of Mr Khan. Losing Punjab means losing government in the Centre too,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2023

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