Has PML-N withdrawn from Punjab race?

2018-08-08T06:16:25+05:00 Sajid Zia

LAHORE - The PML-N is politically hyperactive in the Punjab province but focusing on playing the role of a strong and forceful opposition both in the national and Punjab assemblies.

In the province, the PML-N has been unbeatable ruling party for the last 10 years. The election results posted the PML-N as the winner of majority seats in Punjab (total 129) that sparked a deep hope in the party for establishing its government. However, the later developments went more in favour of the PTI than the PML-N in terms of number game. But later, it had to decide to play the role of an animated and robust opposition capable of giving the treasury a very tough time.

The body language of the members-elect of the party in Punjab, proceedings of the Central Executive Committee meetings and utterances from the party leaders before the media are all indicative of the change of heart in the party.

In the last two meetings of the Parliamentary Party and Central Executive Committee of the PML-N a lukewarm interest of the members-elect was seen as in the first meeting about 20 members-elect did not turn up while in the second the attendance was also short of strength.

While talking to media after the CEC meeting on Monday, party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb did mention the ongoing efforts for the formation of the PML-N government in Punjab but she did not share what those efforts were, and at what stage those were being made after 25 of the 29 Independent MPAs-elect have joined the PTI. On the other side, also the PPP, which stands with it in the Centre as part of the joint opposition, has said nothing about putting its six Punjab seats in support of the PML-N.

Marriyum was carried away more by the decisions taken by the party on mounting protest before the Election Commission office on Wednesday against the alleged manipulations in election results and nomination of Shehbaz Sharif as PM candidate, than precisely disclosing the votes in hand to win the CM slot in the election.

Khwaja Asif too avoided media talk when they wanted to know what strategy had been evolved to meet the number game for Punjab top slots. Former Spokesperson of the Punjab government Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan mentioned the party’s efforts to make for the simple majority of 185 members in Punjab but his words too lack that conviction which a party confident of carrying the palm, holds. He, however, passed indication of playing the role of a strong opposition in Punjab.

Likewise, former federal minister Ahsan Iqbal directed his diatribe towards the election rigging and PTI Chairman Imran Khan without telling anything to the media about the party efforts for forming government in Punjab.

Former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan who was assigned with the duty to reach out to and woo the independently elected MPAs last week was quite optimistic about PML-N winning the chief minister position. Then he claimed the covert support of 14 MPAs to the party and said, the election of speaker and deputy speaker will give a surprise to those who are counting more weight on the PTI side at the moment.

However, Sana of late is also quite somber and silent and is not exuberant as he was last week which implied he too is looking at the situation objectively than emotionally.

In the party meetings also the stress was laid on finalising the name for the opposition leader candidate although the nominations for the contests of CM, and speaker and deputy speaker slots were also discussed but at low profile. In any case the PML-N will never like to give a walkover to the PTI on any seats.

In this milieu, certain media reports are telling about old political campaigner and Punjab ex-CM Ch Pervez Elahi, that he is breaking into the PML-N strength of members to carve out forward bloc in the assembly on the pattern set in 2008 when the PML-N had created the like one from Elahi party PML-Q to sustain majority. As such the PML-N is facing the dilemma of keeping its members intact as well as uncertainty in the vote count.

A party source said that the PML-N as integrated and numerically close to the treasury in the Punjab Assembly will prove a hard nut to crack for the ruling party. He said Punjab is very important for the PML-N which will have a much open field to play on the Opposition side than the centre where it will be joined by other parties like PPP and MMA. He said the party has not totally given up hopes as in Pakistan, the political situation changes overnight.

At the moment, he said, the party leadership was waiting for the final tally of members with every party after the Election Commission awarded reserved seats to them, and the members who are facing litigation are deducted from the gross strength after their notifications of victory are held back.

Thus the dominating mood in the party is less for the rule and more for the Opposition as per the ground realities, the source concluded.

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