Shehbaz likely to lead PML-N as party head

  • ECP directs ruling party to appoint new party head after Nawaz’s ouster
  • A cabinet group wants Kalsoom Nawaz to take up new responsibilities

The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) is mulling to elevate Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif or former first lady Begum Kalsoom Nawaz as new president of the ruling party but the Punjab chief minister is favourite for the new responsibilities.

A formal decision to this effect would be made in the next few days. The notice comes a day before former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is set to travel from Islamabad to Lahore – his hometown – in what is set to be a historic two-day rally undertaken by the ruling party to garner much-needed political mileage in the face of the challenges its government is facing.

A ruling party source told Pakistan Today that majority of the party’s leaders had proposed the name of Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, to be elevated as the party president. However, a ‘powerful’ group in the federal cabinet wants Begum Kalsoom Nawaz to take up the new task.

Shehbaz, who is also the chief minister and was reportedly named by Nawaz Sharif to succeed him as the prime minister, is going to be nominated in view of the notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which directed the PML-N leadership to appoint a new party head after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.

The source said that most of the party leaders wanted Shehbaz to replace his elder brother as the party chief. However, he said that there were a small group within the party against the idea. “There is a group of ministers who wants some senior party leader to succeed Nawaz Sharif,” the source said.

He said that the group has proposed the name of Kalsoom Nawaz to replace Nawaz Sharif. A few members had even raised the name of party’s senior leader Raja Zafarul Haq, who happens to be chairman of the party. The idea was rejected forthwith by majority of the leaders to appoint Zafarul Haq. However, “consultations are on as final word would be made by Nawaz Sharif himself,” the source said.

However, Zafarul Haq rubbished the idea, saying that the majority of the party leaders were in favour of Shehbaz Sharif to take the top role in the party. He said that the announcement to appoint Shehbaz as the party president would soon be made. He said that soon after the ECP’s notice, the party’s top leadership had discussed the matter and the decision had already been taken to appoint Shehbaz as party’s president.

In a notice issued to the PML-N, the ECP sought appointment of a new president to replace Nawaz Sharif who had stepped down on July 28 after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not disclosing his assets. After the verdict, Nawaz Sharif ceased to be a member of the parliament and could no more continue to remain president of the ruling party.

The ECP notice informed the PML-N that Nawaz Sharif cannot lead the party after his disqualification under the Political Parties Order 2002. The ECP also referred to the PML-N constitution which mandates that the party would appoint its new chief within one week’s time. It hence asked the PML-N to elect a new president and inform the Election Commission.

The ECP notice also referred to the Article 15 of the PML-N’s party constitution, saying that if the seat of the party president is vacant, it is to be filled within one week’s time.