Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif on Monday presided over a meeting of the party’s senior leadership, directing them to prepare for general elections announced for Feb. 8, 2024.
Held at the PMLN’s central secretariat in Lahore, the meeting marked the start of a “new phase” of the party’s election campaign, read a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter. Among the leaders who attended were PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif; Senior Vice-President and Chief Organizer Maryam Nawaz; Khawaja Asif; Khawaja Saad Rafique; Ahsan Iqbal; Senator Ishaq Dar; and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.
According to the party, the participants discussed the future political activities of the party as well as the prevailing political situation in the country. Speaking with media after the meeting, Asif said Nawaz Sharif would contest the upcoming elections. To questions on the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) alleging the lack of a level playing field, he maintained “everyone has a level playing field.” Rafique, meanwhile, told media the PMLN had no desire to keep anyone out of polls, adding that “all parties” should be on the ballot.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Aurangzeb claimed Nawaz’s ‘homecoming’ rally at Minar-e-Pakistan was the largest political event in Pakistan’s history. She maintained this was a result of the public seeing Nawaz as the herald of development, adding the PMLN had already set up an election cell; invited applications for tickets ahead of elections; and formed a committee to work on the party manifesto.
“We are ready for elections,” she said, claiming the party would reduce unemployment, boost I.T. development, and ensure low-cost fertilizer for farmers to facilitate the public and national economy. To a question on calls for a “level playing field” from various parties, including erstwhile-ally PPP, she “advised” them to focus on the upcoming elections, adding: “The lamenting over a level playing field at this stage just shows that political forces have recognized that the public backed Nawaz Sharif on Oct. 21.” This narrative, she maintained, was just preparation for a loss on Feb. 8.
Referring to a press conference of a senior PPP leader that had claimed the party would “sweep” the elections, she questioned how such a “clean sweep” could be achieved without a “level playing field.” She stressed that the public should be granted the right to elect its own leader, adding Nawaz wished to work with all political forces because the prevailing challenges were far in excess of any single party to solve.
Today’s party meeting was the first chaired by Nawaz at the central secretariat since his return to Pakistan on Oct. 21 after four years of self-imposed exile in London. Despite the PMLN claiming he would contest the polls, however, he remains disqualified from holding public office pending appeals against his convictions in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia corruption references. The party maintains the issue would be resolved prior to elections.