Once again: PML-N poll drive left leaderless

With Shehbaz in NAB custody, no one is there to lead party

Sardar Sikander October 07, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was rendered practically ‘headless’ after the arrest of its President Shehbaz Sharif just ahead of the upcoming by-elections, reigniting speculations about a possible ‘deal’.

By-elections are scheduled to be held on 37 seats of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies on October 14.

It is certain that Shehbaz Sharif would now not be able to lead PML-N’s by-polls campaign after an accountability court in Lahore remanded him to NAB custody on Saturday for 10 days (until October 16).

In his absence, the PML-N is struggling to identify who to lead the N-League’s electoral campaign.

PML-N supremo and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam have both distanced themselves from political activities after they were released on bail on September 19.

Nawaz vows to overcome hurdles to win by-elections

Close associates of Shehbaz Sharif argued that there was no need to assign anyone to lead the by-elections campaign in the presence of Hamza Shehbaz, who is already spearheading the campaign of former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Abbsi is PML-N’s candidate for NA-124 Lahore which Hamza had won in the July 25 general polls.

Hamza Shehbaz had vacated this seat after he retained Punjab Assembly’s seat.

“In Shehbaz’s absence, Hamza is the obvious choice. He is the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly. We believe, the real battle for by-elections (will be fought) in Punjab and Hamza Shehbaz can easily influence the outcome of the by-election,” said a former provincial minister in Punjab.

But another PML-N leader, who served as a federal minister during the previous government, disagreed with this assertion.

He pointed out that because veteran PML-N leaders were unwilling to work under Hamza’s leadership, no one had so far been appointed as the party’s head in the Punjab.

“If Hamza is unable to … become the party’s president in Punjab because of opposition within the party ranks … It will be a bit too much to expect him to lead PML-N’s by-election campaign,” he said.

PPP announces support for PML-N’s Rawalpindi candidate

Hamza, he said, had been ‘compensated’ after he was elevated as the Leader of the House in Punjab Assembly but he was denied the post of the party’s president in Punjab.

PML-N’s position was aggravated because it already lost its Punjab president after Raja Ishaq Sarwar, the party’s provincial General Secretary, suffered a brain haemorrhage a few weeks ago. He is still hospitalized in Lahore.

Sarwar is considered to be close to Shehbaz Sharif.

Raja Zafarul Haq, who is the party’s chairman and Leader of the Opposition in Senate, had little involvement in PML-N’s electoral politics, one party leader said.

PML-N leaders did not appear too optimistic about riding the sympathy vote in by-polls.

“Mian sahib (Nawaz) was arrested on July 13 and general elections were held on July 25. If sympathy vote did not work for us then, we should not expect that it will work now, after Shehbaz’s arrest,” said a PML-N senator.

Veteran PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said that the PML-N did not need to nominate any individual to lead its by-poll drive.

“Shehbaz Sharif is our President and he is indispensable. The party stands united behind him and is working for the party to succeed in the by-polls,” he said.

He maintained that other opposition parties had assured the N-League of their support against Shehbaz’s arrest and a collective struggle would soon be launched in this regard, he said.

Opposition parties in Senate

Meanwhile, PML-N’s Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq convened a meeting of opposition parties with representation in Senate on Monday in a bid to map out a collective strategy against Shehbaz’s arrest.

The meeting is scheduled to be held at 2pm ahead of Senate session.

Chairman PML-N seeks ECP’s intervention

Chairman PML-N also wrote a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), seeking its intervention against Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest.


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