LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif doesn’t need to bring in an interim CM even if he decides to contest the by-elections from NA-120 till the time the election results are announced, The News has learnt.
Under the Article 223(2) of the Constitution, which says, “Nothing in clause (1) shall prevent a person from being a candidate for two or more seats at the same time, whether in the same body or different bodies, but if he is elected to more than one seats he shall, within a period of 30 days after the declaration of the result of the last such seat, resign all but one of his seats, and if he does not so resign, all the seats to which he has been elected shall become vacant at the expiration of the said period of 30 days except the seat to which he has been elected last or, if he has been elected to more than one seat on the same day, the seat for election to which his nomination was filed last.”
Add to this, the Article 223(3) says, “A person to whom clause (2) applies shall not take a seat in either House or the Provincial Assembly to which he has been elected until he has resigned all but one of his seats.”
This implies, if CM Shahbaz Sharif wins the by-elections from NA-120, or for that matter any other seat, if the party wishes to vacate for him for ensuring the margin of success, can keep Punjab for 30 days. And, if he loses, he will not run the risk of losing the Punjab. The CM, nevertheless, has the choice to vacate the seat and go all-out for the campaign for the National Assembly seat he would be contesting.
However, under the Election Commission’s Code of Conduct, ministers or the CM, if desire to contest the by-election while in the office, cannot run the campaign for that particular seat themselves. That is, if the CM wishes to contest from any seat while being in the office, he simply will have to refrain from public rallies and meetings though there is no bar on putting up hoardings and running the canvassing as usual. In that scenario, former PM Nawaz Sharif doesn’t have any such bar or other party members can indulge in the electioneering process on the candidate’s behalf.
As for who would replace him, the party is working on multiple options. Some probable names are taking the rounds in the power corridors, but these are all speculations and nothing is certain till the final decision is made in this regard.
For instance, the Hamza Shahbaz Sharif camp is promoting his name through the media cell.It will surely be a disaster for the party politically with father and son at the helm of affairs in Islamabad and Lahore simultaneously for the people already had similar reservations in the case of two brothers calling the shots. Secondly, Hamza might not wish to take the risk with the family already under the lens of very important people.
At the forefront are a few other important names, including Punjab Minister of Labour and Human Resource Raja Ishfaq Sarwar. He had served the party all along through highs and lows. His other credit is that he doesn’t belong to the PML-N citadel, Lahore. The party doesn’t afford further controversy by doling the top slot to the city. Otherwise, Minister for Excise and Taxation Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman, Minister for Health Khawaja Salman Rafiq (for whom his brother Saad Rafiq is burning the midnight oil), Minister for School Education Rana Mashood and a few more could have been good choices. Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Iqbal is also in the run, however, his age factor is an impediment.
One important name is Rana Sanaullah; the provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah could have been the best pick. He is one of the most senior, loyal members of the party and doesn’t belong to Lahore. Sources say, he has made himself quite controversial in important legal proceedings, besides having links with some hardcore activists of banned outfits in his hometown. Neither the establishment nor his party colleagues from Faisalabad have been happy with him.
Another important factor is the candidate who would contest from PP-159, the seat to be vacated by Mian Shahbaz Sharif. Sources said former Mayor Khawaja Ahmad Hassan might be fielded from this constituency. The name of Talah Burki, Shahbaz Sharif’s political assistant, is also being tipped off. Talah belongs to the same constituency, while Kh Hassan will have to be imported from downtown Lahore. The decision has not yet been made. Sources said Nawaz Sharif is yet to shrug off the anger against him for becoming the Nazim during the Musharraf era. Nevertheless, Kh Hassan is a respected leader of the party and Mian Shahbaz trusts him a lot. In case he won the seat, he would be another candidate for the office of the Chief Minister.