Shahbaz Sharif named president of PML-N, brother Nawaz becomes ‘Leader for Life’
LAHORE: The Central Working Committee (CWC) of Pakistan’s ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Tuesday elected Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as the party’s acting president. His brother, Nawaz Sharif, was declared “Leader for Life” through a new resolution.
Nawaz, who was removed from his position as prime minister in July over allegations of corruption, proposed his brother for the office of party president to a thunderous round of applause from CWC members.
The party’s chairman, Raja Zafarul Haq, then nominated the former prime minister as “Leader for Life,” saying, “Nawaz Sharif was, is and will remain the leader of PML-N.”
Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi endorsed that sentiment.
“These are peoples’ decisions and the courts have no right to make such choices,” he said. “This is what our party wants.”
Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that a person disqualified from holding public office, as Nawaz was, could not lead a political party, hence Shabaz’s election as “acting president.”
Nawaz resigned as party president after his disqualification, but regained the position in October after the legislature approved the Electoral Reforms Bill, 2017. Section 203 of that bill states that any citizen, except for civil servants, can form a political party and become its office bearer.
That law was then challenged in the Supreme Court, which declared it null and void, and Nawaz had to quit his position once again.
Addressing the 109-member CWC, Nawaz strongly criticized the judiciary and reiterated his reservations about its recent decisions.
Referring to the judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) issued by the former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, he said: “It is the greatest crime when you (forsake) your country’s constitution and take an oath of allegiance to a military dictator. What is a bigger crime than that?”
Shahbaz Sharif, accepting his nomination, said that he would follow the party line and his brother’s work.
“I will move forward under the leadership of Mian Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
Political pundits see Shahbaz’s presence in the office as a good omen for the party.
“He is non-confrontational and will be acceptable to the establishment,” said Pakistan Today Editor Arif Nizami.
Veteran journalist Mujeeb-urRehman Shami agreed. “Shahbaz Sharif is different from his brother. He mostly focuses on development work and is likely to avoid confrontation,” he said.
“This nomination was made with the next general elections in mind,” said Salman Ghani, editor, current affairs at Dunya TV. “Shahbaz Sharif enjoys a good reputation and people like him since he carried out development work. He is also the most acceptable person in the party, and his leadership can ensure PML-N’s victory in the coming elections.”
The CWC will present its decision at the PML-N’s general council meeting on March 6 in Islamabad. The council is likely to endorse the decision, confirming Shahbaz as the new party chief.