LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Adopting a cautious approach, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) decide to follow the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) lead and attend the assemblies’ session in a bid to give the PTI a tough time, rejecting the idea of delaying taking oath as suggested by JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman until after the APC.
The decision was taken during a senior party leader meeting on Sunday, which was presided over by the party’s chief Shehbaz Sharif.
According to a party leader privy to this development, the PML-N decided not to give PTI a walk over by boycotting the assemblies.
He said that since the PPP decided to attend assemblies, PMLN would also follow suite.
“We do not want to divide the opposition. We want to establish a unified front instead of going solo.”
He said that the other main subject discussed in meeting was formation of Punjab Government. Another crucial matter discussed in the meeting was forming the government in the Punjab.
Shehbaz, he said, was briefed about the prospects of the PML-N forming the Punjab government.
He said that though the party had already decided to send Shehbaz Sharif to the National Assembly, but some leaders believed that he should stay back in Punjab if the PML-N managed to form the provincial government.
PML-N on Sunday insisted it surpassed in the number game with 145 lawmakers now on its side. PML-N sources maintained that the party was just four independent lawmakers short now.
Another sources maintained that if PML-N secured the support of PPP, which had six seats in the Punjab Assembly and the support of 15 independent candidates, it would be in a comfortable position to form the provincial government.
According to him, as many as 10 independent legislators – two from Bahwalnagar and Bhakar, one candidate each from Narowal, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Khanewal, Layyah and Okara – had pledged to join PML-N.
PML-N eyes sitting on opposition benches in Punjab
Fears of defections:
Despite the fear of defections, the PML-N is considering the option of sitting on the opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly amid reports that some of its lawmakers are responsive to PTI overtures.
Contrary to claims PML-N leaders earlier made about forming government in Punjab, the N-League is quietly considering the option to become an opposition party if it fails to muster the required number of lawmakers in the provincial assembly.
“Both options are being considered: Lobbying for the formation of the nest provincial government and considering candidates for the leader of the opposition if the first strategy does not materialise,” said a PML-N senator, requesting anonymity.
Elaborating upon discussions held during a crucial party meeting under PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore on Sunday, he said that the party leaders had decided to be “prepared for any situation. Be it government or opposition.”
Shehbaz, he said, had made up his mind to sit on the opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly but his own son, Hamza Shehbaz, was resisting this idea.
Recently, Hamza had publically announced that N-League will form government in Punjab and the party had started consultations in this regard.
On Sunday, PTI overtook PML-N in terms of the number of lawmakers on its side in Punjab.
PTI had originally secured 123 seats against 149 needed to form the government in Punjab.
On Saturday and Sunday, PTI’s Jehangir Tareen managed to bring eight independent lawmakers into PTI’s fold, bringing the party’s provincial strength at 131. The N-League is trailing behind with 129 seats. Both parties are eyeing the support of 29 independent candidates but N-League has so far failed to secure the sympathies of any independent candidate.
Some reports suggest that Hamza wishes to be the next chief minister while PML-N is considering Khawaja Saad Rafique as the Leader of the Opposition in Punjab.
“If our candidate (Hamza) for the post of chief minister fails to get more votes than the PTI nominee, it would be humiliating,” the source said.
A party leader close to Shehbaz Sharif said that PML-N leaders fear that as many as 30 MPAs-elect were ready to join hands with the PTI.
Moreover, the party was also concerned about the role of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). PTI, they feared, could support PTI to form the government in Punjab with the help of independent candidates.
PML-Q has eight seats in the Punjab Assembly while an independent candidate recently joined the Q-League.
PML-N leaders, he said, were inclined to work with the PPP in forming a coalition government at the Centre.
However, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari favoured the idea of sitting on opposition benches in the National Assembly.
Both PMl-N and PPP held deliberations in the federal capital on Sunday in which the PPP side conveyed to N-Leaguers that their leaders did not favour bypassing the PTI’s mandate to form government at the centre.
Following this development, the N-League’s leadership steeled itself to sit on the opposition benches in NA. However, PML-N leaders were keeping both options open.
PML-N leaders close to Shehbaz agreed that the party’s leadership had no plans to forge any alliance either with Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) or Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) against alleged poll rigging.
PML-N, it is learnt, did not favour calling for a fresh election or boycotting the parliament.
Shehbaz, sources said, believed that N-League would fare far worse if fresh elections were held.
On Friday, an All Parties Conference convened by MMA against alleged rigging in the general polls ended without creating any ripples in the domestic politics.
The event’s significance seemed undermined after mainstream political forces such as PPP, Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) (barring Farooq Sattar) announced not to participate in the moot.