LAHORE - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is all set to launch an intensive mass contact drive in south Punjab from Multan on March 23, in a bid to strengthen the party structure and apparently countering a similar campaign by its rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the region, The Nation has learnt.

Sources in the PML-N close to the developments told this correspondent on Sunday that the top leadership would launch the campaign from Multan keeping in view its political significance in south Punjab, while they were expecting to complete the drive in April.

They quoted senior party leaders as saying the high command had directed the local leaders to make special arrangements for the Multan rally to celebrate the party’s win in the recent by-polls, which would convey a strong message to former PML-N stalwart Javed Hashmi that he did not command popularity in his own city. It would also serve the similar purpose with respect to the ‘troublemakers’ in the party from the south Punjab, they added.

They said other divisions of the region would also be covered in the campaign; however, a ‘special attention’ would be given to Multan, where PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was planned to address the gathering.

They claimed the party leadership was in a ‘relaxed mode’ after securing the seat vacated by Javed Hashmi and it had chosen Multan to launch the drive for consolidating the gains.

Sources, while quoting the top insiders, said the leaders in south Punjab had also started the process of constituency-wise survey to come up with appropriate recommendations to accommodate the ‘new potential entrants’ in some of the national and provincial assemblies constituencies in the next polls, while the exercise would also apply to award tickets to some of the forward bloc members.

Meanwhile, the PML-N leaders assigned to hold parleys with the likely defectors from their opponents told this scribe on the condition of anonymity that there was a strong possibility of three PPP MPs -Nishat Daha, Major (r) Abdul Rehman and Rana Babar - joining them soon. About inducting some members of the PML-Likeminded, they said it had been decided that no ‘liability’ would be included in the party with a promise of party ticket; however, they could be part of the PML-N unconditionally at any time. When contacted, Mushahidullah Khan, the central secretary information of PML-N, confirmed the information about the Multan rally claimed that more political bigwigs from south Punjab and Sindh would be seen among the ranks of the PML-N in the days to come. He added that Nawaz Sharif was also expected to attend another public meeting in Sindh later this month, where some important political figures would join the PML-N.