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Sharifs plan to revive Jati Umra

September 02, 2007

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LAHORE, Sept 1: Exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif along with his family will stay at his Jati Umra, Raiwind, residence, family sources say.

Mr Sharif is landing at Islamabad airport on Sept 10 and will reach his hometown Lahore in a procession through the Grand Trunk Road.

PML-N officials say that the Sharifs own a residence in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and another in Garden Town’s Tariq Block but these are not capacious enough to accommodate the fairly large family which also has an emotional association with their Jati Umra residence as Mian Muhammad Sharif, the late family head and father of the former prime minister, is also lying buried there.

The exiled family could not participate in Mian Sharif’s last rituals here a couple of years ago due to some conditions set by the army government to allow them to arrive in the country. So paying a visit to his resting place will be a priority of the family.

The Sharifs did own an eight-kanal residence in Model Town. But the government attached it along with some industrial units owned by the family, including Ittefaq Foundary, Hudaibia Paper Mills and Chaudhry Sugar Mills, to recover certain bank loans from them.

The banks which had extended the loans have tried to sell out the industrial units but could not find any buyer. A party source claimed that even the Sharifs were approached for offering them the units back through some front men but the offer was declined.

Gosha’aye Aafiat, an institution for destitute elderly people, is working at the Model Town residence. Its occupants are also worried about their future as they feared that they may be displaced if the Sharifs try to get back their house.

Renovation of the Jati Umra residence started around six months ago, family sources say. A team from Jeddah also took part in it and the job is almost complete.

Meanwhile, the preparations being made by the PML-N for receiving their exiled leaders present a dismal picture, at least in the provincial metropolis, which is considered as the stronghold of the Sharifs.

The responsibility for overseeing the preparations rests with central secretary general Iqbal Zafar Jhaggra, who is yet in London where he along with several others had gone to attend a consultative meeting for finalizing the return schedule of the Sharifs.

Similarly, Punjab president Sardar Zulfikar Khosa and a dozen of other local leaders are also in London. Mr Khosa plans to return on Sept 4.

Provincial secretary general Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, in the absence of Mr Khosa, has announced formation of a couple of coordination committees for arranging transport for bussing activists to Islamabad and to make other such arrangements but these bodies will start working only when the plan is finalized by party’s provincial chief on his return.

Activists are perplexed whom to contact for guidance as Raja is leaving for Murree, his hometown and constituency, for mobilizing people there for the reception.

PML-N leaders from Faisalabad and some other districts report they are facing problems in hiring vehicle as transporters are demanding higher charges.

In other districts the party has already started a “mass-contact drive” for mobilizing people to reach Islamabad on Sept 10 but in Lahore the task will begin from Sunday (today) with first public meeting in Shahdara. At least one public meeting will be held in each provincial assembly constituency of the district.

Aspirants of PML-N tickets and ordinary activists are getting banners, posters and stickers prepared on their own as no such step has been taken at any level of the party.

Slogans for this “publicity” material are reportedly being finalized in consultation with members of the Sharif family.