PM tasked to forge consensus on Fata reforms bill

LAHORE: A day after ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif nominated his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) candidate for prime minister in the upcoming general election, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited the former PM at his Jati Umra residence and discussed the country’s political situation and the party’s preparedness ahead of the polls.

No official word was given about the agenda or outcome of the huddle, which was attended by the Punjab chief minister, federal Ministers Khurram Dastgir Khan and Khawaja Saad Rafique, and ex-information minister Pervaiz Rashid among others.

However, a cheerful Shahbaz Sharif later indirectly confirmed reports about his nomination while accepting felicitations from a journalist with the traditional reply: Aap ke munh mein ghee shakar (may your felicitations come true).

The party worker in the PML-N said that the main item on the agenda for the informal meeting was the issue of the merger of the Federally Administered Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “They discussed reservations of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PkMAP president Mehmood Khan Achakzai and others who are opposing the merger of Fata with KP and decided to remove them before enacting the Fata Reforms Bill,” the source said.

A draft law in this regard has been pending with the National Assembly for months as the government failed to win over Maulana Fazl on the proposed reforms for the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

PM Abbasi and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting with the JUI-F chief a day ago but were unable to persuade the JUI-F chief to even budge an inch from his stance. The former prime minister asked Mr Abbasi to take all parliamentary parties on board and forge a consensus on the Fata bill, the party worker said.

The participants of the meeting then discussed the PML-N’s preparations for the 2018 general election. According to the PML-N official, the disqualified prime minister would lead the election campaign as the party head but the younger Sharif will be fielded as the PML-N’s candidate for the prime ministerial slot.

The Pakistan Peoples Party reacted sharply to the Punjab CM’s nomination as prime minister, as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah was quoted as saying in his hometown Sukkur: “Let the people decide who will be the next prime minister — Shahbaz Sharif or Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.”