LONDON: Several senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz met the party’s ailing supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in London on Saturday to inquire after his health and discuss the way forward on burning political issues.
Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Khurram Dastagir Khan, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Rana Tanvir Hussain and Amir Muqam had arrived in London a day earlier to meet PML-N leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif and discuss their party’s stance on the pressing matters of legislation on extension of the army chief’s service as well as the appointment of the chief election commissioner.
Former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is based in London, was also present during the discussions.
The PML-N leaders’ visit to the United Kingdom took place at a time when their leadership faces a string of accountability cases back home. As they met in London, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz moved the Lahore High Court with a request to direct the government to remove her name from the Exit Control List (ECL). In her petition, Ms Nawaz expressed concern for her father’s health and requested the court to allow her to travel abroad so that she might take care of him.
Ahead of the meeting, rumours were rife that the opposition party would reveal what legislative role it would play when the issue of extension in the service of the army chief would be brought to parliament. However, no clear strategy on the subject materialised as several party leaders said they were still awaiting the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict on the matter.
Later Mr Iqbal said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had exposed its incompetence by its bungling of the notification concerned.
The PML-N team held two back-to-back meetings, with the first consultative huddle held under the chairmanship of Shahbaz. This meeting took place in the afternoon at Maroush Garden, a popular Lebanese restaurant on Edgware Road in central London.
The discussion lasted for about 90 minutes, with Shahbaz seated at the head of the table. The politicians briefed Shahbaz on the ongoing political developments in Pakistan and discussed issues from “inside and outside parliament”.
In a brief conversation with reporters after the first meeting, Khawaja Asif said they could not make a comment on the extension legislation till the apex court’s detailed verdict was released. He added: “If fresh election happens, our position is that the first step should be an in-house change — not for the sake of perpetuating a change but for the sake of holding fresh elections.”
After the lunch meeting, the PML-N team led by Shahbaz walked for 10 minutes from Edgware Road to Park Lane, where they were scheduled to meet Nawaz at the Avenfield House. Hussein Nawaz greeted the PML-N leaders at the entrance to the property, and they proceeded to move inside to meet Nawaz.
An hour later, the party leaders emerged from the building and Shahbaz briefed reporters on their discussion. “Our friends, who have come from Pakistan, inquired after Mian Sahab’s health. Dr Adnan (Khan) briefed them on his health and told them about the PET scan results, which show activity in his lymph nodes. Mian Sahab thanked his well-wishers and the nation for their prayers and good wishes.”
He also said that in the earlier meeting, the party leaders discussed the appointment of chief election commissioner and added that he and Prime Minister Imran Khan were communicating on the subject and each side had suggested three names.
“We sincerely wish to engage with the government on this matter in a cordial and dignified manner and pick the best consensus candidate for this role,” he said. Shahbaz, however, added: “Our experience with Imran Niazi so far has been discouraging, but we are hoping for the best outcome.”
When asked to comment on the suggestion of an in-house change — specifically about a rumour that Shahbaz himself could be the next premier — and the possibility of an election next year, he said: “Who said this to you? There are so many rumours in the air in Isloo. Don’t talk about them. Islamabad is in the grip of magic and sorcery.”
Mr Iqbal, too, said the purpose of the PML-N leaders’ London visit was to inquire after Nawaz’s health and said he and the party prayed for his good health. He added: “In our consultative meeting, we discussed the case of the army chief’s extension. It exposed how totally non-serious this government is. This was such a sensitive issue which could have been resolved. But they messed it up. It gave others an opportunity to criticise the country... This is evidence that this government is incompetent and dishonest.”
He added that it is not appropriate to make a comment on the extension till the detailed SC verdict comes. “Once that comes we will discuss with opposition and present our view.”