LAHORE: Six years after he lost the party president’s office due to a Supreme Court decision in the Panama Papers case, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is all set to be re-elected as the PML-N president in a general council meeting of the ruling party in Lahore today (Tuesday).

The meeting set to take place at a local hotel will likely elect the elder Sha­rif unopposed even tho­ugh as many as 11 party members have received the no­m­ination papers for the top slot. Earlier, the PML-N had announced convening the general council meeting on May 11 for this purpose but it was postponed to coincide with the celebr­ation of 26 years of Pakis­tan becoming a nuclear power.

Addressing a press conference, PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah hinted that the former premier would be elected without a contest.

When asked if there was any other candidate agai­nst the elder Sharif, he said if any party member wanted to contest against him, they should come forward. When asked why the party did not adopt a democratic process to vote for a new president, Mr Sanaul­lah said: “PML [Pakistan Mus­lim League] was a ‘londi’ (servant) of power corridors. It was Nawaz Sharif who made it a party of the public.”

He said after Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, it was Nawaz Sharif who “made the party vibrant”. When asked why Nawaz Sharif was not active in politics after the February polls…was he unhappy with “someone”, he said, “Nawaz is not angry with anyone. He is active in the party. All major decisions of the party and government are taken by Nawaz Sharif.”

Nawaz Sharif was removed as the party president in 2018 after a Supreme Court bench headed by then-chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar ruled that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution cannot serve as the head of a political party. Only a few months before this decision, he had been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers-related corruption cases.

The indication of Mr Nawaz retaking the helm was given last month when the members of the PML-N Punjab chapter passed a resolution urging him to lead the party since he had been acquitted in all corruption cases after his arrival from London in October last year. “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 leads the party to new heights of popularity,” the resolution had said.

Besides his acquittal in two corruption cases — Avenfield and Al-Azizia — by the Islamabad High Court, the final hurdle in his reelection was removed in January when the Supreme Court, in a majority verdict, quashed lifetime disqualification for lawmakers under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Talks with PTI

Speaking about potential talks with the opposition, PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah, who is also the PM’s aide on political affairs, said the ruling PML-N was not opposed to a dialogue with the PTI.

“We are political workers …we are in favour of dialogue but Mr Khan had taken the stance of not talking to anyone (politicians) since 2011,” Mr Sanaullah said.

He further said the political style of Mr Khan might result in a major disaster. “The people need to understand this,” he added.

Replying to a question regarding PTI founder Imran Khan’s tweet in which he said that every Pa­­k­istani should study the Hamoodur Rahman Com­mission Report and get to know who was the true traitor, General Yahya Khan or Sheikh Mujibur Ra­­hman, Mr Sanaullah said: “I pray that [Imran] Khan doesn’t meet the same fate as Mujibur Rahman.”

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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