Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was elected the PML-N president unopposed at a convention of the party’s General Council on Tuesday.
Addressing the council’s meeting in Islamabad after his election, Shahbaz said he was honoured to have been chosen as the party president but that no one, including himself, could even think about taking the place of Nawaz Sharif, who was removed as party president by the Supreme Court but was later rechristened as the party’s ‘leader for life’.
“I believe Nawaz Sharif is the only Pakistani politician and leader that can be called Jinnah’s political heir,” he told a roaring crowd chanting party slogans. “We are lucky to have been blessed with a Quaid [leader] like Nawaz Sharif.”
Nawaz made Pakistan’s defence “invincible” through atomic weapons, rejected $5 billion aid from the US and built motorways, he said. History will also remember Nawaz for eliminating terrorism through the sacrifices of armed forces and nearly eliminating load shedding, he added.
Shahbaz said he got the chance to serve the people because of his elder brother. “My political upbringing by Nawaz Sharif is an asset of my life. I assure you that with the guidance of the quaid[leader] I will do my best to serve the people and the party.”
But the PML-N president cautioned that today was not a day to give and receive congratulations.
“The world knows that our leader has been persecuted and discriminated against,” he said. “[But] my heart tells me that Nawaz Sharif will get justice [one day].”
‘You have lost despite winning,’ Nawaz tells opposition
In his address to the convention, Nawaz said he is unable to understand why a prime minister that was elected by the votes of tens of millions of Pakistanis was abruptly removed.
It is not easy to end an era of load-shedding, he said, adding that his government had managed to achieve the seemingly impossible feat.
Nawaz forbade them audience from chanting slogans, saying today’s was a solemn occasion because the country faces an uncertain situation.
“We worked hard and resolved to erase the darkness from this land,” he said, adding that the people who were experiencing 20-22 hours of load-shedding daily a few years ago are now living their days in peace.
Nawaz said multiple motorways and road projects started by him have been completed or are nearing completion. He said Prime Minister Abbasi will have to inaugurate those projects because he personally does not feel like going anywhere anymore.
“I am a human too,” he said, adding that his heart has been broken by the mistreatment allegedly meted out to him.
The PML-N ‘leader for life’ said the next 70 years for Pakistan should not be like the past 70 years, and sought the people’s support to work for the country’s betterment.
Nawaz said the manifesto of his party is based on four words: “Vote ko izzat do [respect the people’s vote].”
Asking the public to turn the upcoming general elections into a “referendum”, Nawaz said he’s facing NAB cases not because any corruption has been proven against him but because he “talks about the respect for people’s vote”.
In a reference to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, he said, “The one from Banigala, those from Bilawal House and the caravans from KPK… all went and bowed in the same spot.” Addressing them, he asked who they had “prostrated before” and what services that person had given to the country.
“You have lost even though you won and we have won despite having lost,” Nawaz said. “We are not the ones to compromise… we are not the ones to sell Pakistan for our own benefit.”
PML-N’s leadership crisis
The post of party president was left vacant last month after Nawaz was removed from the position by the apex court.
Shahbaz, who was serving as the party’s interim president, had submitted his nomination papers for the presidency today.
He was the only nominee for the position of party head, but his victory was formally announced at the party’s General Council meeting in Islamabad, during which voting for the party’s president also took place, according to Law Minister and PML-N’s Chief Election Commissioner Mahmood Bashir Virk.
Many of PML-N senior leaders, including Shahbaz, Nawaz and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi were present at the GC meeting.
The PML-N has been facing a leadership crisis since the apex court, in its July 28 Panama Papers judgement, ordered Nawaz’s disqualification from public office and he was removed as party head.
However, with the speedy passage of the Elections Act 2017 ─ which amended the requirements necessary for top party leadership to possess ─ Nawaz managed to retake party leadership. But he was removed again from the post after the court ruled in February this year that a disqualified person is ineligible to lead a party.
Mismanagement was observed at the polling venue earlier as party workers attempting to enter were prevented from doing so by security personnel at the Convention Centre.
Workers then resorted to violence, breaking glass doors at the venue, causing some workers and leaders to receive injuries.