LAHORE – Expecting the general elections to be held no later than March, the PML-N has entered the final phase of alliance-making and electoral understanding with other Opposition political parties except the PTI.

Although the PPP-led federal government wants to set the schedule of general elections as per its convenience, the PML-N has put its foot down not to let the polls go beyond March 16, when the federal government completes its five years in office.

Informed sources in the PML-N confided to this scribe that the party leadership in its meetings had weighed all options, including that of resignations from the assemblies and long march to Islamabad, if the PPP delayed the general elections on some pretext.

Besides this, the PML-N is also making full-fledged preparations to contest and win the upcoming general elections; and party leaders have stepped up contacts and meetings with other political parties and prominent individuals in this connection.

“Along with wooing others to join the electoral alliance, the PML-N has expedited work on finalising the name of a consensus candidate for the slot of interim prime minister; and the party would present the final two names to the government after the timeframe of the elections was announced,” the sources added.

PML-N sources informed that after the receipt of two more names from the Jamaat-e-Islami, the total number of names under consideration with the party for the slot of interim prime minister has reached nine. “Considering Baloch deprivations and to ensure smooth electioneering in the province, the party strongly desires a Baloch to head the interim government. The names of veteran leaders Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Mahmood Khan Achakzai have been floated in this regard,” they added.

Sources further informed that a meeting between Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal, and PML-N President Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was likely to be held on Friday (today). “Though the meeting will be a continuation of the talks that the PML-N is currently holding with Baloch political parties, the matter of appointing Ataullah Megal as the interim prime minister will remain the focus of discussion,” they held.

The sources confided that Ataullah Mengal, who remained the chief minister of Balochistan during the ZA Bhutto tenure in 1972, first wanted the PML-N to ensure that no one, including the establishment, would oppose his name.

The PML-N sources claimed to have made a major headway in Sindh after forging alliance with Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, the Sindh Nationalist Front, Liaqat Ali Jatoi and others. “The PML-N is also reaching out to other nationalist parties, including the Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party of Dr Qadir Magsi and the Awami Tehreek of Rasool Bux Palejo,” they informed.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PML-N is mainly focusing on seat adjustment with the Jamaat-e-Islami and other right wing parties; however, all depends on the current efforts for the revival of five-party alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The party also expects winnable candidates of the PML-Q in that province to switch over to its side, as did Ameer Muqam.

In Punjab, where the party holds sways, candidates for the rural constituencies have been finalised. The sources said to address reservations of party leaders over new entrants, it has been decided not to disturb the sitting members in the upcoming general elections and to adjust the new comers in those constituencies where the party did not field candidates in the last elections or where they lost with a close margin or in those constituencies from where they returned to the assemblies.

A committee is working on this matter and a comprehensive strategy is being evolved to contest the polls in South Punjab in view of its possible status as a separate province in the days to come.

Sources further said the draft of the PML-N manifesto was being given final touches and it was expected to be unveiled next month. Also, the election jingles for TV consumption had been finalised and go ahead had been given to the office-bearers at district level to gear up for the elections and start public mobilisation.