LAHORE: PML-N sup­remo Nawaz Sharif after the Feb 8 polls is keeping a low profile but active in behind the scenes efforts for formation of federal and Punjab governments, Dawn learnt on Sunday.

That the PML-N sup­remo is busy selecting cabinet members came as no surprise as a senior PML-N leader said that despite all odds the PML-N and PPP will form the federal government with MQM as their third partner.

“Although he [Nawaz] is holding meetings with top bureaucrats of Punjab along with his daughter — who is PML-N’s nominee for chief minister — as part of her training, he is keeping a low profile in the political situation obtaining after the elections,” a party insider close to the Sharif family told Dawn.

The elder Sharif, pitched by his party before the polls as favourite for the slot of PM, had to surrender in favour of younger brother Shehbaz Sharif after the party failed to secure simple majority in the lower house.

“The three-time premier has taken a back seat after the unexpected outcome of the elections. He could have taken the driving seat in the upcoming government in the Centre but the question regarding the legitimacy of polls has restrained him from insisting on taking the reins.

“He has saved his energy to make a comeback some other day,” the insider said and added that the elder Sharif was busy shortlisting names for the federal and Punjab cabinets.

“Nawaz Sharif’s current role is calling shots from behind the scene — recommending names for federal and Punjab cabinets as well as nominating bureaucrats of his choice for key posts,” he said.

A party leader said Nawaz Sharif was given a “reality check” in the elections. “Mr Sharif was least expecting the blow received by his party.”

Ahead of elections, he was thoroughly briefed on each constituency in light of on-ground surveys by his party men and intelligence agencies, which were totally different from what happened on Feb 8,“ he claimed.

“Currently, the only satisfactory outcome of the polls is his daughter becoming the CM,” the PML-N leader said.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb did not deny or confirm when asked about Nawaz Sharif holding meetings with bureaucrats and busy in efforts for forming the federal and Punjab governments.

Besides, former defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif predicted that despite all odds the PML-N and PPP will form the federal government, while ex-railway minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq pleaded that institutions and politicians should sit together to pre-empt any attempt by the enemies of the state to take advantage of the prevailing political uncertainty.

“The N League, PPP and MQM are going to form the federal government as the party has nominated Shehbaz Sharif for the office of prime minister keeping in view his experience of dealing with the allied parties,” Khawaja Asif told reporters in Sialkot.

Claiming progress in the third round of talks held with the former allied parties a day ago, he said both PPP and JUI-F had been sitting with PML-N in the past.

He said negotiations with MQM have also been positive and they are ready to join the federal set-up.

Denying that Maulana Fazl had distanced himself from PML-N, he said they (JUI-F) have opened door of talks with PTI, which is being blamed for rigging (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

“One fails to understand the stance of striking an alliance and joining protest with a party (PTI) against which there are allegations of rigging.”

He, however, said that PML-N is ready to sit on opposition benches for the sake of political stability.

In Lahore, Khawaja Saad Rafiq said state institutions and politicians should sit on the negotiating table to come out of the imbroglio. Otherwise, he warned, enemies could take advantage of political uncertainty.

Talking to the media, he said the PTI founder would be acceptable only after he gave up ‘politics of hatred’. He said a way forward is found only when one’s rival accepts one.

Stressing that Feb 8 vote results should be accepted, Mr Rafiq said PML-N too could have raised multiple reservations on the results but it prudently followed the path of conceding to the mandate of people in certain constituencies.

Amjad Mahmood also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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