• Rana Sanaullah says Nawaz being made president again to ‘undo injustice’ of 2017
• Hopes former prime minister’s leadership will inject new impetus into party

LAHORE: PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is all set to reassume the party presidency, taking over from his younger brother Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, six years after the Supreme Court disqualified Mr Nawaz from holding the post.

The announcement emerged from a PML-N Punjab chapter meeting on Friday, where a resolution was passed urging Mr Nawaz to lead the party since he has been acquitted in all pending corruption cases.

“Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017 (by the Supreme Court) through a conspiracy. Now it’s time that he assumes the office of the party president and lead the party to new heights of popularity,” the resolution said.

PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah told a presser after the meeting that Mr Nawaz was being made president of the party again primarily to “undo the injustice” the Supreme Court meted out to him in 2017 in Panama Papers-related corruption cases.

Mr Sanaullah said the party would “request” Mr Nawaz to accept the party’s president’s office upon his return from China. Nawaz Sharif left for China on a five-day private visit on the day the Iranian president arrived in Islamabad early this week.

“Nawaz Sharif was removed from the party president’s office through a conspiracy. Now that Nawaz Sharif has been acquitted in all (corruption) cases, he should take up the party’s reins,” Mr Sanaullah said.

Asked whether Mr Nawaz was being made the PML-N president again to have a complete hold of the party affairs, Mr Sanaullah said this was not the case, as all the decisions made by the current party president, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, were already endorsed by the elder Sharif.

Mr Sanaullah said Mr Nawaz would inject new impetus into the party and reorganise it under his leadership.

The former interior minister also did not rule out new appointments to other party offices after Nawaz Sharif’s return.

It has been learnt that Khawaja Saad Rafique, who lost his National Assembly seats in Lahore, is lobbying with the Sharifs for the party’s secretary general seat.

Mr Sanaullah also tried to give the impression that there had been no grouping in the party. Referring to PML-N leader Javed Latif, he said, “Those sitting beside me show that there is a freedom of expression in the party”.

Mr Latif, who lost his NA seat from his hometown of Sheikhupura, has made different claims regarding the PML-N’s lower-than-expected performance in the February general elections and the establishment’s role.

Similarly, Rana Sanaullah and Saad Rafique also made some controversial statements regarding Shehbaz Sharif’s coalition government. Since the trio is considered from the Nawaz camp, their statements were taken as expressions of the elder Sharif’s sentiments.

To a question, Mr Sanaullah said that if courts gave bail to PTI founder Imran Khan, he could come out of jail. Earlier, Mr Sanaullah said Nawaz Sharif was willing to talk to Mr Khan for the country’s sake.

Following his arrival in Lahore in October last year after a four-year self-imposed exile in London, Nawaz Sharif got a clean chit in Panama Papers-related corruption cases.

He was all set to become prime minister for a fourth time, but his party failed to get a simple majority in the Feb 8 polls. Mr Nawaz then allowed Shehbaz Sharif, considered close to the military establishment, to lead a six-party coalition government in the Centre.

Recently, PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui dismissed the impression that Mr Nawaz’s path to premiership was blocked by an “unseen power” or his younger brother, Mr Shehbaz.

“During my meetings with the three-time prime minister before the 2024 general elections, I felt that Nawaz Sharif was not eager to assume the PM Office for the fourth time,” he said while talking at a Geo News programme. He also dismissed the impression that Mr Nawaz was impatient and restless in becoming the premier again and described it as media speculation.

However, Mr Sanaullah disagreed with Mr Siddiqui’s assertion, insisting that the PML-N’s candidate for the premier’s slot was Nawaz Sharif. “Since the party failed to get a simple majority, it decided to make Shehbaz the premier,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2024

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