LAHORE/ISLAMABAD  -  After achieving the landslide victory in the general elections, the PML-N leadership has embarked upon consultations to form government at the Centre as well as in Punjab, Balochistan and possibly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well.
Although no formal meeting has been held between the top leadership of the party, the leaders have informally begun to share input on the future governments of the party. As per party sources, PML-N President Nawaz, who spent most of the time in Raiwind on Sunday receiving greetings from his supporters and the world leaders, will soon call a meeting to decide about the future governments of the PML-N.
Assumption of premiership by Nawaz himself is a decided matter and his brother Shahbaz Sharif will reassume the chief minister slot in Punjab. During their election campaign, the PML-N had said that if they won, Shahbaz would be made federal power minister to end the energy crisis in shortest possible time. However, the party sources said that Shehbaz re-appointment as Punjab CM and the size and chemistry of PML-N-led governments would be formally announced after meeting of party’s CWC (central working committee).
The insiders said that names were being informally discussed for the important slot of National Assembly speaker and the top five federal ministries – finance, foreign affairs, information, communication and power. Sen Ishaq Dar has been tipped as future finance minister while Ch Nisar, Khwaja Asif, Mehtab Abbasi and Iqbal Ahsan appear strong candidates for other important positions. They said Nawaz wants to keep the size of federal cabinet moderate so that burden on the national exchequer could be lessened. As to the provincial governors, a source said that the party would go for their replacement after installation of their own president when President Asif Zardari’s term expires.
Trends from 264 of the 272 parliamentary seats that went to the polls showed that the PML-N was set to bag in excess of 125 seats, while Imran Khan’s PTI and the Pakistan Peoples Party were lagging far behind with 34 and 32 seats, respectively. The PML-N’s strong performance will make it possible for Nawaz to form government at the centre with the backing of independent candidates and smaller rightist parties like the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl which was leading in 11 seats.
Analysts said it was possible that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, leading in 12 seats, could back the PML-N. To win a simple majority, a party or coalition would have to bag 137 of the 272 National Assembly seats for which polls were held. Another 70 seats in the 342-member National Assembly are reserved for women and non-Muslims and will be allocated to parties according to their performance in polls.
As for the provinces results, the PML-N is leading in 188 seats out of 297 seats in the provincial assembly of the most populous province of Punjab. In Sindh province, the PPP and its ally MQM were leading in 66 seats and 15 seats, respectively, and were comfortably placed to form government in the 130-member Assembly. The Awami National Party (ANP) suffered a washout in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), leading only in three seats while the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was set to bag 31 seats.
There were no clear trends for Balochistan though the PML-N, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Balochistan National Party-Mengal were expected to perform well there. Most top leaders of the PPP, including several former ministers, and senior leaders of parties that were allied to it — like the ANP and PML-Q — were defeated in Punjab and KPK.
The PML-N sources said the party in the next meeting would also discuss the ways and means to keep other provinces in loop with the Centre if a different party forms government there, so that a harmony and better liaison between the centre and province could be maintained. Sources say within the party a thinking exists for striking alliance with Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) in KPK, where PTI has emerged as the largest party, to secure political ground in that province in the time to come.
JUI-F chief Fazalur Rahman in fact contacted Nawaz to work out a joint strategy to form their government in KPK. Fazl called Nawaz over phone and congratulated him on his party’s success in the general elections. Nawaz also congratulated Fazl on his party’s appreciable success as it has won three National assembly seats and had performed well in KPK. Both the leaders reportedly discussed formation of a coalition government in KPK.
The PML-N sources said that inside the party, Shahbaz commands high respect for his acumen and understanding about handling the affairs of Punjab and the development projects he carried out. They said the PML-N would like to provide to the other provinces benefits of their expertise. The party also plans to hold election of the local bodies within six months of the formation its governments.