ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s leader Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar’s unexpected victory in the Senate election from Punjab has caught the top Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership off guard, as the party is now internally probing the matter to trace those lawmakers who have cast their votes in favour of the PTI leader.
In the 371-member strong Punjab Assembly, the PML-N has 310 seats compared to 30 seats of the PTI.
Sarwar got 44 votes in the Senate poll that implies that he received some 14 votes more than his party’s total strength in the provincial assembly. This extra chunk of support came either from the government or opposition lawmakers.
The development has put to test the leadership Shehbaz Sharif who took the party’s reigns only a few days ago.
Just two days before the Senate election, Shehbaz summoned the provincial lawmakers reportedly to take ‘loyalty pledge’— that that they would not resort to defection and make sure that the PML-N would secure all 12 seats up for grab.
But following Sarwar’s victory in the Senate elections, Shehbaz convened an internal party huddle on Saturday night to express his annoyance with the party’s provincial lawmakers who were tasked to ‘take care of’ the Senate polls under the command of Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and PML-N’s Secretary General in Punjab Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, The Express Tribune has learnt.
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Both Sanaullah and Sarwar assured Shehbaz that the party lawmakers who possibly supported Sarwar in securing the seat of the upper house would be traced and proceeded against, according to reliable N-Leaguers.
Chaudhry Sarwar, a former member of British Parliament, was a close ally of the Sharif brothers and is said to have played an active role in the PML-N’s thumping victory in the general elections from Punjab when he was the province’s governor.
However, Sarwar later parted ways with the PML-N while slamming the Sharif brothers’ policies and joined the PTI. The new Senator-elect has since been active to dent the N-League’s vote bank in Punjab.
For Shehbaz, the development is shocking, given that a ‘hostile’ opponent like Sarwar won a seat from Punjab where the N-League’s parliamentary party functions under the direct control of new PML-N chief in his capacity as leader of the house in Punjab Assembly.
“Losing a seat in Punjab and that too at the hands of Chaudhry Sarwar is like adding salt to injury,” said a PML-N lawmaker requesting anonymity.
He said that even though the party leadership has reiterated to trace its provincial lawmakers who have voted for Sarwar, it cannot do anything in this regard.
“There isn’t much our party command can do about. That the Senate polls are held through secret ballot leaves no possibility to determine who voted for whom — and even, if, let’s assume, the ‘culprits’ are traced, they can be expelled from the party which would not affect their memberships of the Punjab Assembly,” the source said, adding that the defection clause is not applicable on any lawmaker who votes for anyone outside his/her party policy in the Senate election.
When approached, Rana Sanaullah denied that Shehbaz ordered to launch any internal probe in connection with Chaudhry Sarwar’s win.
“This could be figment of anyone’s imagination, but it’s far from reality,” he told The Express Tribune.
“It is not necessary that the PML-N legislators supported him (Sarwar) and it is possible that he may have got support from opposition parties,” the provincial law minister said.