Shehbaz’s national govt idea takes party leaders by surprise

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif’s recent statement in support of formation of a national government after coming into power has surprised even senior members the PML-N and is likely to brew more problems for the former ruling party.

Background discussions with senior leaders from the party’s Punjab chapter suggest that the PML-N chief did not take the senior leadership onboard before voicing his support for a national government during his last week’s visit to Karachi.

During the two-day visit, Shehbaz met party leaders, workers and businessmen in what was termed as the PML-N’s launch of election campaign. Raising many eyebrows, Shehbaz told a select group of senior journalists that the formation of a national government was the solution to problems the country was currently faced with.

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“Pakistan is faced with myriad of challenges. And it’s not possible for one party to surmount all these challenges alone,” he said but added in the same breath that it was his personal opinion which might or might not receive his party’s endorsement.

“You cannot hold me accountable if my party does not endorse my opinion. I’m the president of the PML-N and this is my personal opinion, but then there is the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) and the Central Working Committee (CWC). They will make the final call,” he said.

Opposing the idea, the PML-N’s key stalwarts believe that by suggesting formation of a national government, the PML-N chief has admitted his party has little hope of winning the July 25 general elections.

Requesting anonymity, a former provincial minister in Punjab said the party chief should have consulted the PML-N’s senior leaders before making a statement that might entail far-reaching implications.

“This just came out of the blue. This kind of rhetoric ends up adding to the confusion and the mess the party is already in. Defections continue and senior party members have started speaking against the party command.

“The voices of dissent are gaining more strength than ever. Barring Shehbaz, the top leaders [Nawaz Sharif and aides] are nowhere to be seen. He [Shehbaz] should have exercised caution before giving this kind of statement,” he added.

Due to the absence of Sharif, the party supremo, from the political scene, problems have mounted for the party with senior leaders like Zaeem Qadri, Raza Ali Gillani, Chaudhry Ghafoor and others having left the PML-N and strongly criticising the leadership’s policies.

A PML-N senator said there were other political motives behind Shehbaz’s statement. She referred to a strong feeling in some PML-N circles that Shehbaz was out to appease the establishment and was trying to offer security bosses an olive branch by uttering ‘favourable’ statements.

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“There is an element in our party which believes that Shehbaz is desperate to win the favours of the establishment. The idea of ruling arrangement like a national government and a technocrat government is initiated by pro-establishment quarters. Endorsing a national government aims to convey a message to powerful quarters that the PML-N is ready to ‘negotiate’ if voted into power again,” said the senator.

However, senior PML-N’s leader from Punjab Rana Sanaullah dismissed the internal controversies attached to Shehbaz’s idea.

“I think the matter is blown out of proportion. The PML-N president has already made it clear that the idea of a national government is his personal opinion and does not reflect the party policy,” he told The Express Tribune.

Asked if the PML-N had any plans to raise the proposal with its decision-making bodies like the CEC and the CWC, Sanaullah did not offer a direct reply. “When he [Shehbaz] says that it’s his personal opinion and not of the PML-N’s, there’s no room for speculations,” he said.

Says that there are no conflicts between him and Nawaz Sharif

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