Pakistan Muslim League-N is due to elect its permanent president and the party’s leadership is missing from the country.
On August 17, PML-N’s Central Working Committee (CWC) appointed Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar as the party’s acting president and decided to elect a ‘regular’ president on September 7.
However, due to personal commitments of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif in London, the party chief’s appointment is likely to linger further.
Technically, the new chief would be appointed by the PML-N’s CWC and the acting president would preside over the process. Practically, however, no headway to this effect is expected till the Sharif brothers, Nawaz in particular, land back home, The Express Tribune has learnt.
A source in the PML-N said that the party had decided before Eid-ul-Azha that the name of the new PML-N president would not be announced till Nawaz’s return home. This is being done to show the ex-premier’s political relevance and ‘nuisance’ value, according to the insider.
“The appointment of the new president following Mian sahib’s arrival is important — to show that he is still calling the shots and wields unchallenged power in PML-N’s ranks,” the source said.
Although the schedule of Nawaz’s arrival is not confirmed yet, it is expected that he would land in Pakistan soon, mainly due to two reasons: the appointment of PML-N president and to oversee – in an informal capacity – his wife Kulsoom’s election campaign for the National Assembly seat NA-120 that had fallen vacant after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court on July 28. The by-election in this constituency of Lahore is scheduled for September 17.
Shehbaz is considered as an obvious choice to head the N-League. Lately, however, reports have emerged that the CM Punjab is not happy over the appointment of an acting president a few weeks before he is handed the reins of the party.
Sources in PML-N’s Punjab chapter believe that by appointing an acting president, the party’s central leadership has attempted “to belittle Shehbaz’s stature”, something that has not gone down well with the younger Sharif.
This move, the insider said, may end up like a previous situation when Shehbaz was slated to become the ‘permanent’ PM after Nawaz was disqualified and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was supposed to be the ‘interim’ premier. However, later, Nawaz had a change of heart and Abbasi was allowed to continue till the completion of the federal government’s term in June next year.
“Previously, there was an interim PM who occupied the permanent seat and now there is an interim president. Who knows he too may become a permanent choice!” a PML-N MPA said, requesting anonymity. The party’s Punjab chapter leadership is concerned over the situation, he said.
“Shehbaz is assertive and authoritative… he can overshadow others if given the reins of the party. That’s why Nawaz has been advised to exercise caution.”
Initially, Shehbaz’s son Hamza was assigned to run Kulsoom’s election campaign after she was diagnosed with lymph node cancer last month. She is currently recuperating from a surgery in London.
But Hamza was replaced by Maryam Nawaz to supervise her mother’s election campaign in what comes as an indication that all is not well within PML-N’s top ranks.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said he did not see any delay in the appointment of the party president. He also denied the reports of a rift.
The electoral laws provide for the party chief’s election within one month after the appointment of an acting president.
“That one month is not over yet and there’s a lot of time. And assuming that the PML-N would distance itself from Mian sahib is just unthinkable. This party exists because of Nawaz Sharif. There isn’t anything unusual if it takes a while to appoint the new party president. Let there be no doubt that Mian Shehbaz Sharif would be the new PML-N president, soon,” he said.
Commenting on reports about a rift between powerful PML-N camps, the minister said, “On one hand, the Punjab government is accused of using state resources to favour Kulsoom Nawaz’s election campaign and on the other hand, there are reports that the Punjab chapter is not happy with the central leadership over the appointment of an acting party chief. These two observations just don’t go together.”
Credit: Express Tribune