LAHORE: After mostly staying away from public view since the Feb 8 general elections, PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif made a conspicuous appearance on Monday by chairing three administrative meetings of the Punjab government.

The move has raised many eyebrows since Mr Sharif holds no official position in either the provincial or federal government and is officially only a National Assembly member.

An official handout issued after the meeting said the PML-N supremo issued directions to ministers and officials regarding different infrastructure projects, including the underground train and metro bus, farmers’ plight, electric bikes for students and Ramazan relief package.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the Punjab chief minister, sat beside her father during the meetings at the Chief Minister’s Office.

PML-N supremo heads three moots about relief package infrastructure projects

Mr Sharif ordered officials to take measures to help small farmers and shield them from expensive electricity tariffs by providing solar panels to run tube-wells.

Planning and Development Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Information Minister Azma Bokhari, Food Minister Bilal Yasin, the chief secretary and finance and agriculture secretaries also attended the meeting.

In another meeting, Mr Sharif praised his daughter’s government for successfully launching the Ramazan relief programme.

The meeting decided to set up civic administration centres in three cities and grant them police powers to control price hikes.

In the third meeting, the PML-N leader ordered an increase in the number of electric bikes provided to students on low monthly instalments. He also directed the official to cut bus fares. The meeting decided to launch metro bus projects in three cities and sought a plan for an underground train in Lahore.

Questions over Nawaz’s role

Questions are being raised over how Mr Sharif, who is only a National Assembly member, could preside over the Punjab government’s meetings and issue directions.

It is widely believed that the PML-N supremo is the one calling the shots on all major decisions despite having no official role in the province.

His daughter and CM left no doubts about it when, in reply to a question about why Mr Sharif’s face adorns the bag in which ration is distributed to the needy under the Ramazan relief package, she said: “Because it is Nawaz Sharif’s government.”

Before Mr Sharif, his close confidant, Pervaiz Rashid, was a constant presence in all provincial meetings, primarily to guide CM Maryam.

Mr Sharif used to chair provincial meetings before as well when his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif was the chief minister. But back then, the elder Sharif himself was the prime minister — a post he was set to hold for the fourth time till a few months ago.

Till the general election, Mr Sharif was certain to be the PM if his party won the elections. The tide, however, shifted as his party couldn’t secure a simple majority in the National Assembly.

The elder Sharif then stepped aside and allowed his younger brother, Mr Shehbaz, to lead the coalition government in the centre.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2024

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