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National

August 4, 2017

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Shahbaz Sharif likely to stay in Punjab

ISLAMABAD: Shahbaz Sharif will most likely stay in Punjab as the chief minister till the forthcoming general elections and will not contest the by-poll to a Lahore seat of the National Assembly to become prime minister, a credible source close to Sharifs told The News.

The decision has been taken by the top Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership after weighing several distinct, plausible minuses and pluses of Shahbaz Sharif’s retention in Punjab or shifting to the Centre.

Nawaz Sharif’s spouse Begum Kalsoom may be fielded in the by-election to NA-120 Lahore seat that fell vacant due to his disqualification imposed by the Supreme Court on July 28. “I think there is a change of thinking; Shahbaz Sharif will remain in Punjab as the PML-N doesn’t want instability and the chief minister also believes that he can't spend so much time at this crucial juncture for re-election and finding his successor just for a couple of months,” the source said.

He also stated that in this process Nawaz Sharif has, however, made it clear to all and sundry that Shahbaz Sharif is his successor, a fact that will help the PML-N in the next general elections. It means that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will continue to be the prime minister for the remaining term of the government till May next year.

Begum Kalsoom will definitely be a good pick to run in the by-poll. So, a woman would be pitched against a woman in the fierce clash. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has already selected Dr Yasmin Rashed as its candidate. Last time in 2013, she was defeated by Nawaz Sharif with a huge margin of some 40,000 votes. This is the traditional home constituency of Nawaz Sharif that he has always won hands down.

In her own right, Begum Kalsoom is a very effective figure. She showed her political mettle and wisdom when she was forced to be in the arena by the arrest of Nawaz Sharif and her several family members following the imposition of martial law in 1999. For fourteen months, she made Musharraf pass sleepless night through her unyielding campaigning. In normal times, she is always much away from active politics but the family is confronted with crises, she is available.

The PML-N has undoubtedly made massive political gains in Punjab because of the unparalleled, relentless fast-track work exclusively done by Shahbaz Sharif in the majority province, which is going to the real battle ground in the forthcoming parliamentary polls. The projects which can’t otherwise be completed in years have been concluded in months simply because of the focus of the chief minister that none of his counterparts can offer.

By pushing Shahbaz Sharif in the by-election to NA-120, which is going to be very noisy and stormy, the PML-N did not want to detract his attention from Punjab, the source said, adding that not only he but his party also cherishes to hurriedly conclude many projects, which are near completion. They specifically include some power production units.

There would have been a big disadvantage for the PML-N had Shahbaz Sharif been moved to the federal government because in such a scenario he would have been unable to pay attention to this province, which is bastion of its power, being eyed by its detractors to whittle down its sway. It is not possible for a prime minister to look after Punjab as well as the federalgovernment equally effectively and efficiently at the same time.

Additionally, it was also feared that a new chief minister might not have been able to keep up the momentum that Shahbaz Sharif has maintained over the past nine years. It was because of this speedy work that the PML-N had swept the 2013 general elections in this province. No political party has ever gained such an extraordinary majority in the provincial assembly as the PML-N had done in 2013.

However, while the Punjab would have suffered if Shahbaz Sharif had come to Islamabad, the famous accelerated pace at which he works would have been introduced at the federal level where a lot of projects also need a huge push so that the PML-N gets their fruits in the upcoming polls.

With Nawaz Sharif actively guiding Abbasi, the new prime minister will be able to keep up the pace that his predecessor adopted. The premier has also declared that Nawaz Sharif’s policies and projects would continue.

Allowing Abbasi to hold the coveted office also shows the confidence of the PML-N leadership in his loyalty and commitment to the party as well as Sharifs. This decision would be certainly welcomed by the rank and file of the party. It also demonstrates that a non-Sharif could also get the top office in the government of the PML-N.

Despite a massive blow to the PML-N, the party and Sharifs have reacted extremely sensibly without creating a scene or chaos. They quickly bowed before the judgment and did not raise any exceptional hue and cry as per the well-considered policy decision taken by them after a lot of deliberations.

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