Banners favouring Shahbaz as PM appear in Lahore

LAHORE: Banners in favour of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif appeared in the city on Sun­day, asking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down and let his younger brother become the premier.

The banners were put up outside the Lahore Press Club at Shimla Pahari by ‘NGO Pakistan’ .

Opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami and Pakistan Muslim League-Q, have also been pressing Nawaz Sharif to resign and nominate anyone from his party to replace him as he has lost both “moral and legal” authority to cling to his office in the wake of Panama Papers case.

The banners read: “Janay do janay do Mian sahib (Nawaz Sharif) janay do, aur aanay do aanay do Mian Shahbaz Sharif ko aanay do (Mian sahib let it go (step down) and allow Shahbaz Sharif to take over the top slot).”

When the matter was brought to the notice of the local leadership of the PML-N, its Lahore chapter office-bearers sprang into action and removed the banners. The PML-N distanced itself from the NGO and termed the banners “mischievous”.

“Those behind displaying these banners do not belong to the PML-N. The whole party is united under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. We will not let any conspiracy against the party succeed,” PML-N Lahore president Pervaiz Malik said, adding that the matter would be probed and those responsible for it would be held accountable.

PML-N leadership calls the move mischievous

Lahore Deputy Mayor Waseem Qadir smelled the role of some intelligence agency in the matter, saying the banners were displayed to create differences (among the leaders of the party). “It looks a work by some agency to create differences in the PML-N,” he said.

The names of two persons and their mobile phone numbers were mentioned in the banners. Their mobile phones were found switched off throughout the day when Dawn tried to contact them.

As a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan reserved its verdict in the Panama Papers case on Friday, rumours have been rife that the ruling party is shortlisting the candidates for the slot of prime minister in case Nawaz Sharif is sent packing.

The names of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are doing the rounds for the PM slot for 45 days till Shahbaz Sharif is elected (on a National Assembly seat) to lead the government for the remaining term.

Even Kalsoom Nawaz, wife of Nawaz Sharif, is also a candidate for the top post, according to some reports.

However, all the three ‘potential’ candidates have denied that their names had been shortlisted by the Sharifs as the party leadership has yet to start consultative meetings on the matter. “There is no prime ministerial candidate. There has been no discussion on this matter as yet,” Khawaja Asif said.

When asked whether Shahbaz Sharif was a ‘potential’ candidate for the post of prime minister if Nawaz Sharif was disqualified, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Dawn that the chief minister would follow the party leadership’s instructions in this regard. “Mian Nawaz Sharif is PML-N chief and Shahbaz Sharif will do what his elder brother asks him to do in the current scenario,” he said.

Another PML-N leader told Dawn that whatever situation arose after the SC judgement in the Panama Papers case, Shahbaz Sharif would not like to lose Punjab to anyone outside his family. “Shahbaz may try to get the top slot in the Centre and also have his complete hold on Punjab,” he said.