October 12, 2023
ISLAMABAD – The PML-N has decided to cancel three rallies in Lahore, planned to build momentum ahead of the homecoming of its supremo Nawaz Sharif on Oct 21, in an apparent bid to prevent its workers from getting burnt out ahead of the big event.
According to a senior PML-N leader in Punjab, the decision was taken on the direction of the elder Sharif himself, who is slated to land in Lahore later this month and address a gathering at Minar-i-Pakistan.
“Nawaz Sharif directed party president Shehbaz Sharif not to exhaust the party workers ahead of his return. He said the party leaders should continue to hold corner meetings and coordinate well with the workers to make his homecoming historic,” the PML-N leader told Dawn.
Amid reports of differences within the party, the PML-N supreme leader also asked the junior Sharif to immediately resolve differences among some leaders of the Punjab, particularly the Lahore chapter, to make the Oct 21 show successful.
Three rallies in Lahore were planned in the constituencies of Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Rana Mashhood, and Riaz Malik to whip up enthusiasm for elder Sharif’s homecoming. Maryam Nawaz, the chief organiser, was supposed to address these rallies in Lahore.
The PML-N was supposed to hold seven rallies in Lahore, but it cancelled two rallies earlier this month and now the three remaining gatherings were also cancelled.
“After the Thokar Niaz Baig rally on Sunday in which the PML-N chapter in Lahore had to consume all energies to put up a relatively better show in comparison to the Shahdara rally, the leadership was given a report that it would be better if both chapters were not further toiled away ahead of Oct 21,” a party insider said.
“As PML-N Lahore President Saiful Malook Khokhar had reportedly managed to bring people from the ‘impoverished’ areas of his constituency in Thokar Niaz Baig rally, the party suspected that Saad Rafique or Rana Mashhood might not be able to hold a large gathering in their constituencies which the party couldn’t afford.”
The PML-N leader claimed there was not good coordination between the Punjab and Lahore chapters of the party headed by Rana Sanaullah and Saiful Malook Khokhar, respectively. Differences between Mr Rafique and Mr Khokhar have already been reported in the media, he added.
In the backdrop of these developments, the elder Sharif has asked the party president to remove differences among the leaders so that the issue does not impact his reception at Minar-i-Pakistan, he said.
Shehbaz takes the lead
Shehbaz Sharif, who spent several hours in his constituency and addressed four back-to-back gatherings to charge up the supporters last week, may take another round of the city.
Although the PML-N Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan chapters have been given certain targets by Maryam Nawaz Sharif regarding bringing people to Minar-i-Pakistan on Oct 21, the prime responsibility has been given to the Punjab and Lahore leadership.
Meanwhile, Ms Sharif held a meeting with the party’s former local government representatives and asked them to mobilise workers for the Minar-i-Pakistan rally.
On the other hand, PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui said Mr Nawaz was leaving for Saudi Arabia from London on Wednesday (today) where he would perform Umrah and spend time with his son, Hussain Sharif.
Mr Nawaz left for London in November 2019 after securing a four-week bail from the Lahore High Court on ‘medical grounds’. Before his departure, he was serving a seven-year jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case.
Earlier this month, PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah had said Mr Nawaz would get protective bail ahead of his return to the country and surrender to a court in the Al-Azizia corruption reference after addressing the rally.
However, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb clarified the elder Sharif would go to his home in Jati Umra, Raiwind, following the rally.