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February 23, 2021

PML-N yet to appoint Lahore president


February 23, 2021

LAHORE:Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is yet to appoint a new party president for Lahore as the final decision will be taken with the consent of Mian Hamza Shahbaz, who is in jail presently.

In recent meetings, the party leadership has announced reorganizing the party in Punjab especially in big cities including Lahore after the Senate elections in March. Party sources said that PML-N Lahore’s President Pervaiz Malik was ill and has told the party leadership that he can’t continue the hectic political work. Following his decision, the party was considering several names with Malik Saiful Malook Khokhar and Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman on top of the list. Party sources maintained that Mian Marghoob Ahmad, Rana Mashhood Ahmed, Waheed Alam and Kh Salman Rafique were also lobbying to get the slot.

Maryam Nawaz and Mian Shahbaz Sharif will also give their input in deciding the name of the new party president for Lahore but the final decision of the name of party’s Lahore President will be taken by Hamza Shahbaz, sources said. Sources said the PML-N has 32 seats in the national and provincial assemblies from Lahore and it was likelihood that the party President will be selected from these lawmakers. Party sources said amongst the few prominent choices the PML-N has for the slot of president Lahore, the names of Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman and Malik Saiful Malook Khokhar were slightly ahead of others.

Sources said Mian Mujtaba won the elections under Hamza Shahbaz and was one of his close aide whereas the Khokhar brothers were also known as strong party financiers and close to central leadership.

After the demolition of a part of the Khokhar Palace, the party’s Central Vice-President Maryam Nawaz Sharif also visited Khokhar Palace twice and expressed solidarity on behalf of Nawaz Sharif. Sources said several leaders of PML-N who were facing NAB cases were reluctant to take the responsibility of leading the party in Lahore at a time when challenges were likely to multiply for the leadership in the coming days, especially under the rival PTI government.

Traditionally in past, the PML-N always picked the Lahore president from two clans Arain or Kashmiris. Currently, two figures, both from the Arain clan Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman and Mian Marghoob Ahmad were prominent as would-be president for Lahore.

Mian Marghoob has served as president PML-N Lahore at one of the most critical phases the party ever had that was Musharraf’s era. He was also Lahore president when Nawaz Sharif made an attempt to return to Pakistan on September 10, 2007 and later when he returned to Pakistan on November 25, 2007.

He was rewarded for his loyalty to the party when Nawaz Sharif pitched him from NA-121 instead of Pervaiz Malik in the 2008 general elections which he won. Pervaiz Malik, however, returned to the NA in the by-polls in 2010.

Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, who was a confidant of Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz, belonged to the famous Arain family of Lahore. He is the son of former Lord Mayor of Lahore Mian Shuja-ur-Rehman and has been active in Lahore politics for over two decades now. He was elected as a councilor in 1998 and later as Naib Nazim, Ravi Town, in the 2001 LG polls. He was elected as an MPA in the 2002 general elections. In the 2008 polls, he was made education minister in the cabinet of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. He also won the 2013 and 2018 elections as an MPA. Being an old guard of the PML-N and a confidant of Hamza Shahbaz, his name was very much dubbed as future president of the PML-N Lahore.

Saiful Malook Khokhar, who belongs to Raiwind and is the brother of Afzal Khokhar, a chum of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is also being viewed as the would-be president of Lahore. The Khokhars have also sided with the PML-N in troubled times and all their family members won the polls almost every time other than in 2018 when the party pitched them against heavy weights. Saiful Malook Khokhar's first victory was in the 2010 by-polls in which he won against Malik Zaheer Abbas of the PTI after a tough contest. His brother Afzal Khokhar got elected as an MPA in 2002 and later as an MNA in 2008 and 2013.

Besides, Rana Mashhood, former secretary of the Lahore bar, who got elected as an MPA for the first time in the 2002 general elections, also enjoys the support of the camp led by Hamza Shahbaz. Having enjoyed the support of Hamza Shahbaz, Rana Mashhood was unlikely to face any opposition in party ranks if he was chosen as Lahore president.

Nevertheless, in case the party chooses Kh Salman Rafique for this office, Rana Mashhood is not likely to raise any objection to this decision owing to his good relationships with Kh Saad, elder brother of Salman Rafique.

Khawaja brothers also belonged to the Kashmiri clan. Mashhood represents the Rajput community, but his case stands strong due to his old affiliation to the party. Mashhood was pitched for the slot of district Nazim Lahore in 2005 against PML-Q's Mian Amir Mehmood. He got elected as an MPA once again in 2008 after which he was made deputy speaker, an office he held till 2013.

In the 2013 general elections, he was made minister for education in Punjab after winning consecutively for the third term in the PA. He won again in the 2018 general elections and returned to the PA for the fourth term.

Kh Salman Rafique contested the 2004 elections for Ravi Town Nazim after it was vacated following the victory of Qaiser Amin Butt as an MPA. Kh Salman lost the poll to Amir Munir of the PML-Q after a tough fight. In 2008, he got elected as an MPA on a Walled City seat vacated by Hamza Shahbaz and headed task forces and later the Health Ministry of Punjab. He lost his seat in the 2013 general elections but returned to the PA in the by-polls.

Similarly, other names which were in circulation included former speaker NA Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, MNA Waheed Alam Khan and MPA Saiful Malook.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who represents the Kashmiri community, rose to prominence after he defeated his former party head Imran Khan in 2002. Ayaz, earlier had contested for MPA slot from the same constituency under Imran Khan in the 1997 general elections.

However, he joined the PML-N later and in 2002 won two seats, NA-122 and PP-147. Ayaz retained the NA seat and was among the nearly two and a half dozen MNAs of the PML-N in the House of 342.

He was pitched from the same seat in 2008 which he won comfortably and made headlines after he defeated Imran Khan for the second time in the 2013 general elections. After the decision of an election tribunal, re-election was held in NA 122 in October 2015, which Ayaz Sadiq won again after a neck-and-neck contest with PTI's Abdul Aleem Khan.

In the 2018 general elections, Ayaz once again won and returned to the NA for the fifth term, the only MNA after Sharifs and Pervaiz Malik to have won an NA seat consecutively for five times or more in Lahore. His name may also be considered for the slot of Lahore president.

The name of Waheed Alam Khan, a businessman and sitting MNA, was also in the list of candidates to be considered for the slot of Lahore president. He won the 2018 general elections after defeating Dr Yasmin Rashid. In this contest, both the winner and the runner up had got over 100,000 votes, but Waheed Alam emerged victorious.

When contacted, PML-N Punjab Information Secretary Azma Bukhari has said that the winds of change have been blowing in Lahore for a long time but the final decision will be taken by Hamza Shahbaz. She said Pervaiz Malik has health issues and he had already informed the party leadership that he will not continue the job.

Over a question, she said the change of Lahore President was final but it may take some time as the party leadership has entrusted this task to Hamza Shahbaz and he will complete it once he will be out of jail.