LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has dispelled the impression that those close to party supremo Nawaz Sharif have managed to get key posts in the current reshuffle while those allied with PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif have been sidelined, saying there is no grouping in the party and it stands united.
As the Sharif brothers on Friday appointed different leaders to senior positions in the party giving a top role to former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is the sole senior vice-president under the new arrangement, it created an impression that those close to Nawaz Sharif had acquired important positions.
But Mr Abbasi does not see any rift in the party. “There are no Nawaz and Shahbaz teams. We work as one team,” he said while talking to Dawn after attending the party’s meeting held in Model Town on Saturday after appointment of new office-bearers. Punjab PML-N president Rana Sanuallah presided over the meeting which was also attended by central secretary general Ahsan Iqbal.
Ex-PM Abbasi says he won’t replace Shahbaz as NA opposition leader
Mr Abbasi said all those given the new positions would work towards taking the party forward.
He said no discussion had been made in the party so far about replacing Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif with him (Abbasi).
“Shahbaz Sharif is likely to return within two weeks after getting his medical tests done,” he said. But sources in PML-N insist that “serious discussion” in this regard have been made in the party at top level and Shahbaz’s quitting the top slot can not be ruled out.
Earlier, Shahbaz quit both offices of the Public Accounts Committee and prliamentary leader of his party in NA amid rumours that he was not returning to the country.
The PML-N under Nawaz Sharif nominated his (Nawaz) close aides Rana Tanvir Hussain and Khwaja Asif for PAC and parliamentary leader slots, respectively.
Mr Abbasi said there were no separate narratives of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif. “Both leaders and PML-N workers have only one narrative and that is respect should be given to the ballot as every Pakistani desires this.”
Asked about any possibility of the return of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to the PML-N, Mr Abbasi said: “The party has not made any contact with Chaudhry Nisar. However, there is room for him in the party and our hearts.”
Ahsan Iqbal believes that the appointment of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif, as a vice-president of the PML-N, would give fresh impetus to the party.
However, Maryam Nawaz’s conviction in the Avenfield corruption case may have legal implications for her new role in the party. There is an impression (in the party) that Nawaz Sharif wants a bigger role for her daughter in the party in the days to come and she may eventually lead the party one day.
Shahbaz Sharif’s son, Hamza Shahbaz, who has been appointed opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly despite reservations by some senior leaders of the party, could not get a top position in the party’s Punjab chapter despite his wish. The position was given to Nawaz Sharif’s loyalist Rana Sanaullah and Hamza was appointed vice president of the party.
Replying to a question, Ahsan Iqbal said: “The party will get fresh impetus by Maryam Nawaz’s appointment as vice president. Shahbaz Sharif is the opening batsman of Nawaz Sharif.”
However, reacting to this development, Adviser to the Prime Minister on information Firdous Ashiq Awan said giving PML-N VP office to Maryam Nawaz was a violation of the rules of the Elections Commission as she was a convict.
Rana Sanaullah said he would reorganise the PML-N at the district and divisional level in Punjab and the party would be strengthened to send the government home.
He expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s decision not to extend Nawaz Sharif’s bail, saying he would himself go to jail on May 7 after expiry of his bail period.
Threat to democracy
Khaqan Abbasi said democracy was under threat because of constant failure of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to deliver on economic and other fronts.
“(Prime Minister) Imran Khan needs to focus on the people’s problems. I am afraid there will be anarchy in the country because of the way the PTI government is functioning, particularly its handling of economic affairs. When such a situation arises it provides a justification for wrapping up of the democratic system.”
Earlier in the day Mr Abbasi cautioned PM Khan in this respect while addressing a conference in Narowal.
Asked whether he saw any immediate threat to democracy, Mr Abbasi said: “Today we see no governance under Imran Khan. The system is not working and no one at the helm of affairs finds any solution to get the country out of this [economic] mess. If this situation persists time is not far away when this set-up will be shown the door. Dictatorship gets an opportunity when there is constant political wrangling and problems of the masses keep on mounting. There is still time for Mr Khan to become prudent before it’s too late.”
The former prime minister said Imran Khan needed to understand there was no “personal enmity” in politics. “I want to tell Mr Khan that he has no power to give NRO to anyone. He must understand this,” Mr Abbasi said and advised PM Khan to refrain from using the National Accountability Bureau for suppressing the opposition’s voice.
He said at least 180 officials (of different departments) had been pressurised by the government to bring forth anything against him (Abbasi) but to no avail. “The PTI government tried its best to detect any illegality in Rs3,000 billion development spending made by our previous government but failed.”