PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif on Monday chaired a meeting of the party's parliamentary board — hours after the newly-elected MNAs swore oath in the National Assembly — to discuss the PML-N's future strategy as part of the opposition.
Addressing the meeting, attended by the PML-N lawmakers, Shahbaz alleged that "historical rigging" took place during the July 25 elections. He, however, said that the party MNAs had sworn the oath to "devotedly play the role for which the nation has elected them".
The PML-N president was of the opinion that in addition to "rigging being a major factor behind PML-N's defeat in the election", the party also suffered due to some of its own shortcomings.
"One of the reasons due to which the party's campaign suffered was Nawaz's arrest," Shahbaz said. He also announced that a committee will be formed to look at the factors behind the unfavourable election results.
At this point, members in the meeting pointed out that senior leaders had laid more focus on their own constituencies instead of contributing to the party's campaign which affected the poll results. They suggested that Shahbaz should "take action against the incompetent people sitting by his side".
Shahbaz reminded the party members that the election for the speaker and deputy speaker will be held on Wednesday and urged them to support the candidates fielded by the party for the posts.
"The speaker and deputy speaker will be elected through secret ballot. I request [you all] to cast your vote for the candidates that we have elected through consensus," Shahbaz said. He also asked his party members to "be punctual" for the session on August 15.
"The PML-N will perform its role like a mature political party," he maintained.
Shahbaz claimed that contrary to the election of the speaker and deputy speaker, the prime minister will not be elected through secret ballot and the "world will watch it". The election for the prime minister will be held on Aug 17.
The former Punjab chief minister also promised to address the reservations of "angry workers" of the party. At the same time, he insisted that the members "follow the line" laid out by the party leadership.
The party members also complained that the leadership did not take the party into confidence when it formed an alliance with the PPP. Shahbaz assured the members that the leadership had kept the party's interests in consideration while taking decisions.
The PML-N lawmakers questioned why the party had failed to get the support of any of the independent candidates despite the PML-N being the ruling party in the province for the past decade.
Shahbaz responded to this by saying that the party had contacted independent candidates, however, they had all refused to extend their support to the PML-N. "Some of the candidates said things I can't even repeat here," he claimed.
The PML-N members also expressed displeasure at the party's lack of protest during the oath-taking ceremony earlier in the day, saying that the PPP raised slogans on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's arrival in the assembly, while the PML-N leaders "sat quietly". Shahbaz tried to placate the members, saying that the "time to protest had not arrived yet".
The lawmakers termed PPP leader Khursheed Shah's role as the opposition leader in the previous government as "admirable" and hoped that Shahbaz would do a similar job.
Shahbaz also condemned that Nawaz Sharif was brought to the accountability court today in an armoured vehicle, asking if a thrice-elected prime minister deserved such treatment.
"The federal and Punjab government should understand that Nawaz Sharif deserves to be treated better."
The attendees of the meeting demanded that the party should run an "effective campaign" for Nawaz because he "meant a lot to [party] members". They lamented that the party had done nothing but sit around while Nawaz was brought to court and then taken back to jail.
Shahbaz, at this point, announced to go to the accountability court on the next hearing, that is to be held on August 15. He told party members to arrive at the accountability court by 8am on Wednesday.
"Your criticism has affected Shahbaz Sharif," he said. "We will go to the accountability court first and then got to attend the speaker and deputy speaker's election."
He further said that the PML-N members will attend the assembly session on Wednesday with black bands tied on their arms.