PM Shehbaz meets Zardari, Jahangir Tareen in Lahore as parties gear up for polls


LAHORE, JUL 15: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) patron-in-chief Jahagir Khan Tareen in Lahore on Saturday as political parties gear up for general elections.

The PML-N said in a statement on Twitter that Zardari, who is an important ally of the PM-Shehbaz-led ruling coalition at the Centre, called on the premier at his residence in the Punjab capital today where the two discussed the country’s current political situation.

In another tweet, the premier’s party said he visited Tareen today and extended condolences over the demise of the IPP leader’s brother, Alamgir Khan Tareen, earlier this month who died purportedly by suicide.

The meetings take place with just four weeks remaining in the 15th National Assembly’s tenure, which will end on August 12, and political parties set to kick off their election campaigns.

For his part, PM Shehbaz has promised timely elections, saying that the government’s reins would be handed over to a caretaker setup in August.

However, no hint has been dropped by either the premier or any other leader from the ruling coalition about when the elections will be held as they have been insisting that it is the domain of the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue the polls’ schedule.

Similarly, the legally required consultations that must take place between the prime minister and opposition leader in the National Assembly over candidates for the caretaker government have yet to begin.

“The names of several controversial characters have been doing the rounds, and it is with quiet trepidation that many have been speculating the actual ‘mandate’ of the interim set-up that will be announced.”

It further pointed out: “Given the absence of any real opposition in the National Assembly, the consultation process, at the moment, appears to be a mere formality. The opposition leader, a PTI turncoat keen on securing a ticket from another political party, is unlikely to have any strong or independent opinions on the matter.”

The editorial also mentioned a Dubai huddle between the PML-N and PPP leadership last month, during which the two sides discussed the timing of the elections, names for the caretaker setup and their share in the future setup if they won the polls, according to reports.

The huddle seemed to have irked another key ally, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, president of the political alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement of which the PML-N is a part, for not being consulted on the meeting.

However, after he had a meeting with PM Shehbaz, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl spokesman Mohammad Aslam Ghauri denied his party chief had expressed any concerns or dislike over the Dubai huddle, claiming the media had distorted Fazl’s off-record conversation with journalists.

PM Shehbaz’s today’s meetings also come a day after the PPP and the newly formed IPP — which is expected to play an important role in Punjab politics in the upcoming general elections — reacted sharply to the PML-N’s reluctance to go for major seat adjustments.

PML-N leader and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said during a press conference yesterday that his party would be contesting the polls solo in Punjab, fielding candidates in all constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies in the province.

In response, the PPP and IPP said they preferred to contest the polls against the Sharifs.