Updated Aug 29, 2018 04:29pm

PPP, PML-N finalise strategy for PM’s election

Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: The top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday finalised a joint strategy to be followed during the election of the prime minister as well as the National Assembly’s speaker and deputy speaker.

The PPP delegation comprising former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah called on PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif at his residence here in Model Town.

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PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Tanvir Hussain and Khawaja Saad Rafique were also present in the meeting which lasted more than two hours.

The PPP reportedly remained non-committal about its support for the PML-N in the election of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker in Punjab.

Punjab Assembly speaker Rana Mohammad Iqbal has emerged as the PML-N’s likely candidate for the slot of chief minister here. Hamza Shahbaz is being tipped as the possible candidate for the opposition leader in Punjab.

After the meeting, Rana Tanvir told reporters that the PML-N and PPP had worked out a joint action plan with regards to election of the prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker in the National Assembly. “The opposition is united and we will go along together both in the Centre and Punjab. We have decided to form groups that will ensure presence of MNAs-elect in the National Assembly’s first session (on Aug 13),” he said.

In reply to a question about reaching a consensus on pitching joint candidates for the slots of chief minister, speaker and deputy speakers in Punjab, Mr Hussain said: “We — the PML-N and PPP — will go together and our efforts to form government in Punjab and the numbers game is in front of everyone.”

However, a source privy to the meeting told Dawn that the two parties had finalised a joint strategy in the Centre, but could not reach a consensus in Punjab.

“The PPP, which has six MPAs-elect in Punjab, is in two minds over voting for PML-N candidates for chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker or abstain from voting at all. Shahbaz Sharif requested the PPP leaders to vote for his candidates and also do aggressive politics along with it. The PPP leaders remained non-committal,” he added.

Shahbaz Sharif is the joint candidate of the PML-N, PPP, ANP and MMA against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan for the slot of prime minister. In Punjab, neither the PTI nor PML-N has revealed its candidates for the slots of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker.

“Shahbaz Sharif today discussed the names of Rana Iqbal and his son Hamza for the slots of chief minister and opposition leader, respectively, with other party leaders. And it is likely that both of them will be the final PML-N candidates for the top offices,” he said.

The PTI is expected to finalise its candidate for chief minister within the next 48 hours. Among others, the names of Mian Aslam Iqbal, Sibtain Khan and Hussain Dareshak are doing the rounds. Former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi has been nominated as the joint PTI-PML-Q candidate for the Punjab Assembly speaker’s slot.

Later in the day, Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting of PML-N’s women MPAs-elect on reserved seats and directed them to do aggressive politics from opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly. This direction has confirmed that the party has lost hope of forming the government in Punjab.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, PML-N MPA-elect Uzma Bokhari said: “Shahbaz Sharif has directed all women MPAs-elect to come to the House with full preparation and give a tough time to the PTI in Punjab. He told them to bring forth the real face of the PTI before the people and keep an eye on every step it takes in Punjab where the PML-N carried out unprecedented development during the last 10 years,” she said.

Ms Bokhari further said the PML-N president told the women lawmakers that their vote should go to the party candidates for chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker positions.

According to a party insider, Shahbaz Sharif wanted to nominate Hamza for the slot of opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and had sought Nawaz Sharif’s approval during his meeting with the incarcerated former premier at Adiala jail on Thursday.

“There has been a debate in the party, especially the Nawaz camp which is not in favour of Hamza being nominated for the opposition leader slot since his father has already been nominated as the joint candidate of opposition for the post of prime minister. The father in the Centre and son in Punjab will earn a lot of flak within and outside the party. But Shahbaz Sharif does not want to leave the party reins in Punjab to someone else,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018

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