Top PML-N leaders met Nawaz Sharif in London


LONDON: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with top leaders of PML-N, met on Wednesday with the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, who was briefed on the “serious economic, constitutional and administrative crises inherited by the present government”.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the meeting reviewed in detail the steps taken by the government since it came to power last month and considered recommendations to save the public from inflation and power outages.

The government team presented its views on future measures in the light of economic realities, the statement said.

The visit marked the Sharif brothers’ first in-person meeting since March 2020. Other London-based party figures were also present on the occasion.

Though Mr Nawaz typically holds official meetings at his son Hasan Nawaz’s office at Stanhope House, this meeting took place at an “undisclosed location”.

The decision to change the location appears to have been taken due to the PTI-led protest taking place outside the office, where PTI activists came face to face with PML-N workers and both sets of supporters created a ruckus outside.

During the meeting, the government’s team noted that the price of petrol was not increased at home “to save the people from the additional burden of inflation”.

The participants also discussed the “severe crisis created by the previous government” in the energy sector.

The meeting also reviewed the “unconstitutional measures” taken since April 3 and agreed that the elements responsible should be dealt with according to the Constitution and the law.

The statement said that another meeting would be held on Thursday (today) under the chairmanship of Nawaz Sharif to make final decisions.

The meeting would approve a strategy to steer the country out of economic and constitutional crises. All decisions would be announced with the support of the coalition parties, the statement said.

Footage of the PML-N huddle posted on social media showed cabinet members Khawaja Asif, Miftah Ismail, Ahsan Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Sanaullah and Ataullah Tarar taking turns to greet Nawaz and then Ishaq Dar, who stood next to Shehbaz in a sitting room overlooking a garden. Abid Sher Ali and Shehbaz’s son Suleman Shehbaz were also present.

Shehbaz was last in London over a year ago, when he, then the leader of the opposition, returned to Pakistan at the height of the pandemic saying he had come back as the “threat of coronavirus facing his country was more important than him being in London”.

He attempted to return to London in early 2021 but was prevented from doing so by FIA officials who had appeared to be instructed by government officials.

The meeting in London took place as the question of when elections will be held was hotly debated back in Pakistan.

In an interview to the BBC, published on Wednesday, Khawaja Asif had said elections could take place before the army chief’s appointment in November this year, but PPP co-chair contradicted him hours later, saying elections could only take place once reforms had been passed.

Later, Mr Asif said his statement was “taken out of context” and said both PML-N and PPP were on the same page on the subject of polls.

As the meeting took place, dozens of PTI supporters gathered outside Hasan Nawaz’s office across from Hyde Park to stage a demonstration against the Sharifs. A message circulating on WhatsApp a day earlier called on Imran Khan loyalists to urgently gather outside the Sharifs’ office to protest against the visiting delegation. PTI workers holding flags showed up to chant anti-Nawaz and Shehbaz slogans even as it rained for most of the day.

PML-N workers had anticipated the PTI protest and had organised dhol walas and their own loudspeakers, along with dozens of workers who chanted pro-Nawaz and Shehbaz slogans. Many held posters that read ‘Welcome, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’ and hit out at former prime minister Imran Khan.

A heavy contingent of Met Police officers was present in the area to ensure the demonstration remained peaceful.

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