LAHORE: A consultative meeting of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) youth coordinators for Lahore was chaired by Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz on Sunday.
The meeting is part of a series of activities that the PML-N is conducting these days to make preparations for giving a rousing welcome to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he returns home on Oct 21.
Mr Sharif had gone to London for medical treatment on Nov 19, 2019, after being released on bail from a seven-year jail term for corruption.
Arranging a befitting reception, to be attended by at least one million people for the ex-prime minister, is a test case for PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam’s skills for cadre mobilization and crowd-pulling in the face of issues like differences among party leaders and ambiguity on the return of the elder Sharif because of protective bail concerns.
Currently, party leaders like Shehbaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Khwaja Asif, and Azam Nazir Tarar, etc, are in London discussing legal and political delicacies with Mr Sharif, while Maryam will join them after completing a round of meetings with local party chapters and wings.
To mobilise the party cadre, Maryam has appointed focal persons and formed coordination committees at district levels. These bodies, comprising former MNAs, MPAs, ticket holders, and other notables, are directly answerable to her only and will stand dissolved soon after the reception is over.
A minimum target of bringing supporters to the reception for each parliamentarian, ticket holder, and party office-bearer is being finalized.
However, statements by party leaders, including Khwaja Asif, that Mr Sharif will return home only after securing protective bail so that he is not arrested at the airport, like in July 2018, are creating doubts about the homecoming plans. And this is dampening enthusiasm among the party workers and supporters.
Maryam is also confronting a daunting task of settling the differences among party leaders in various chapters, which may also create hurdles in smooth arrangements for the reception.
During her mobilization campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, leaders like former central general secretary and KP governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, and ex-KP chief minister Mehtab Abbasi were not invited to the meeting by KP president Amir Muqam. In a bid to cover up the issue, Maryam said that Mr Sharif was in direct contact with these leaders.
However, Mr Jhagra held an anti-Muqam convention at his home, attended by, among others, Mr Abbasi and Tariq Khan, the son of another former general secretary Saranjam Khan.
Differing voices were also raised against Gilgit-Baltistan PML-N president Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman as his rivals say that he has been heading the chapter for two decades and he must vacate the position for new blood. Mr Rehman offered to voluntarily resign from the post but Maryam stopped him from doing so, saying a decision to change of guards at any office in the country will be taken only after the return of Mr Sharif.
Similarly, former Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister Raja Farooq Haider has refused to accept Shah Ghulam Qadir as AJK president, saying he is only answerable to the PML-N patron-in-chief.
In Punjab, many notables are annoyed with former parliamentarians for being ignored when the party was in power. Now they are not ready to lend their support to these ex-MNA and MPAs in assembling party activists for the reception and are bent upon taking out their separate rallies for the purpose.
The PML-N chief organiser is also beset with the task of managing the media, which she thinks is still under the influence of pro-Imran Khan anchorpersons.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023