ISLAMABAD: Process to obtain nomination papers for the election of the new leader of the National Assembly began on Sunday as opposition continued efforts to agree on fielding one candidate to contest for the premier’s post.
So far Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) have obtained the nomination papers from Secretary National Assembly’s office, however according to sources PPP is yet to finalise a candidate.
The papers will be received till 2:00pm today (Monday), while Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq will scrutinize the papers at 3:00pm the same day.
The president has already summoned the National Assembly session on Tuesday at 3:00 pm in the afternoon.
After the election, the new prime minister will take oath, to be administered by the president, and will constitute the federal cabinet.
PML-N has nominated Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as its candidate for premiership while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has nominated Sheikh Rashid of Awami Muslim League as its candidate for the slot.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has called a meeting of parliamentary parties of the opposition in his chamber today (Monday) at 11:30am.
The aim of the meeting is to develop a consensus on fielding a joint candidate for the premiership against PML-N’s candidate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
The meeting would also review the situation which has emerged after the Supreme Court verdict in the Panamagate case in which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified.
Khursheed Shah also spoke with Shah Jee Gul Afridi, an MNA from Fata, on the phone to develop consensus on fielding a joint candidate from the opposition.
PML-N holds majority in National Assembly and it is highly unlikely that anyone from the opposition would be elected.
Sheikh Rashid, according to sources, has been assured of its support by PML-Q while he is also attempting to garner MQM-Pakistan’s support.
The Awami National Party on the other hand has decided to stay away from the election process.
ANP Senator Zahid Khan told The Express Tribune that since the opposition seems divided on agreeing to field a joint candidate his party has decided to abstain from the process of the election.
Talking to media while collecting his nomination papers, Sheikh Rashid said that he will file a case against Khaqan Abbasi for the LNG contracts he had made with Qatar.
Meanwhile, Khursheed Shah has threatened the government that his party will approach the court over a junior commissioner being appointed as acting chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
In a statement released on Sunday he said that according to the SECP Act, senior most commissioner of the body steps into the chairman’s shoes.
However, he said, that it has been learnt that the senior most commissioner has been neglected and a junior commissioner has been appointed as SECP’s acting chairman which is a violation of SECP Act.
The PPP leader said that this step of the government reflects that the government is trying to use a SECP official for its own vested interests as it had done in Zafar Hijazi’s case.
Nawaz moves to unite PML-N
Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif has put his foot down in a bid to win back support of aggrieved leaders in the ruling PML-N and is personally reaching out to those stalwarts who silently distanced themselves from their party following disagreement on given political issues.
The move implies that the otherwise beleaguered Nawaz, who received a setback on Friday after being handed disqualification by the Supreme Court, is not ready to take a backseat, instead, acquired a more politically proactive role.
Even though officially Nawaz is no more PML-N’s president, he still calls the shots and makes important decisions.
Reliable sources in PML-N shared with The Express Tribune that the ex-premier’s foremost priority these days is to win back the support of powerful circles in the ruling lot who were not happy with the party’s policies. For this purpose, Nawaz has held low-key meetings with party leaders in the last couple of days including Chauhdry Nisar, Chaudhry Asadur Rehman, Rana Tanvir Ahmad Khan and other leaders, sources said.
Nawaz and family moved from Punjab House to their luxurious mansion in Changlagali (Murree) on Sunday mainly because the PML-N supremo is set to hold crucial meetings with the party leaders away from the media glare. He is expected to move to Lahore soon where the former PM is expected to meet leaders of PML-N’s Punjab chapter.
“There was less ‘privacy’ in Punjab House compared to PM House and chances were that the classified accounts of meet-ups between Mian sahib and others would get leaked to the media. This is the main reason he preferred to go to Murree, far removed from the mainstream spotlight,” a PML-N senator said, requesting anonymity.
He said Nawaz has enhanced contacts with party’s senior ranks to make sure that powerful lobbies in PML-N put weight behind Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Moreover, sources said Nawaz has directed the senior party leaders to vote for Abbasi.
“He (Sharif) does not want to show any sign of weakness. He wants to prove that PML-N is more united under his command than ever and it does not matter whether he runs the government or not— because at the end of the day he has the final word,” the PML-N leader said.
Apart from party leaders, Nawaz is also giving importance to his allies comprising of smaller political groups and frequently meeting JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PKMAP chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai who hardly enjoyed this kind of importance before.
Abbasi denies corruption
Khaqan Abbasi, the PM-designate, denied corruption allegations levelled against him.
The reports supported by documentary evidence suggest that Abbasi is an accused in NAB’s inquiry into a mega scandal of Rs2 billion related to irregular awards of LNG contracts.
“I am clean,” Abbasi, the former petroleum minister, told the media after his meeting with Fazl.
“If anybody still wants to proceed against me, they should feel free to do so—to get into litigation or file a reference against me. I am ready to face anything,” he said.
Abbasi also attempted to defend his two colleagues Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal who are under fire from public and political circles for possessing ‘iqamas’ (work permits) of Middle Eastern countries.
“I think the issue is blown out of proportion. They [opposition] are making mountain out of a molehill. Possessing an iqama is not an illegal practice and there’s nothing wrong in it. This is just a requirement for visa related purposes,” Abbasi said.
However, he avoided commenting as to why the federal ministers, who are officially entitled to diplomatic passports, needed ‘work permits’ to attain visas—a practice followed by ordinary citizens.
Abbasi avoided commenting on the formation of upcoming cabinet and termed Nisar as ‘part and parcel’ of PML-N. He dismissed ‘rumours’ of rifts within the party.
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