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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Why is Shehbaz Sharif not meeting Bilawal Bhutto Zardari?

Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday once again refused meeting Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, citing health issues. Many wonder why PMLN's President continues to refuse meeting PPP’s chairman? Analysts think Shahbaz is working on a different agenda towards power.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday once again refused to meet Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari citing health issues.

Bilawal Bhutto, who is again visiting Lahore, reportedly approached the PML-N president and expressed his desire to meet him to discuss modalities of holding a long-awaited multi-party conference (MPC) of the opposition parties. This is a repeat of the first week of July, when Bilawal was in Lahore for several days and wanted to meet Shahbaz Sharif, but Sharif had quarantined himself as he was reportedly suffering from Corona virus.

Now Shehbaz Sharif has again refused to meet him citing his health issues, the sources said. The question is why is Shehbaz Sharif not meeting Bilawal?

PMLN Delegation meeting Bilawal Bhutto

Instead, a PML-N delegation comprising of Ayaz Sadiq (Ex-Speaker NA) Ahsan Iqbal (Secretary General, PMLN) and Khawaja Saad Rafique (Ex-Railways Minister) will meet Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, they said adding that the meeting will take place today, Monday, at 12:00 noon at Bilawal House Lahore.

It is pertinent to mention here that earlier on July 07, cracks started to appear between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaderships after the latter showed no real interest in mounting pressure on the incumbent federal government.

According to sources, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had earlier left Lahore after a week-long visit (in first week of July) and during the stay, several attempts were made to make contact with the PML-N leadership. “The PML-N leadership did not give a satisfactory response to the approaches made by the PPP,” they said.

The sources said that the opposition, lead by Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, had suggested holding a multi-party conference before the passage of federal Budget 2020-21. “The PML-N did not respond to the suggestion and even their lawmakers remained absent during budget debate,” they said. In the end, Maulana Fazal held his MPC without the participation  of key opposition parties as was not wiling to delay it any further.

As Shehbaz Sharif not meeting Bilawal, sources close to the PPP leadership said that since Shehbaz Sharif is the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, he should have led the charge against the government during the budget debate.

Sources are still not confident if the PMLN delegation meeting with Bilawal will result in the holding of Multi Party Conference (MPC) as PPP wants. Many who are familiar with the situation feel that Shahbaz Sharif is not prepared to create any serious challenges for the ruling PTI at this stage.

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The former ruling party in the Punjab province seems uninterested in mounting pressure on the incumbent government, they said.

Shehbaz Sharif not meeting Bilawal: a blue-eyed man?

A few months ago, Shehbaz Sharif said that just a month before the General Elections 2018, two renowned journalists approached him with a message regarding his chances of becoming the next prime minister.

The PML-N leader, in an interview with an Urdu daily, claimed that a month before the July election, names of potential cabinet members were being finalized in his meetings with ‘powerful circles’.

Shahbaz Sharif, often considered the establishment’s man, said that his relations with the Chaudhries of PML-Q are almost neutral. He said that there are no feelings of enmity between them anymore but there’s no talk of any joint political strategy with them as yet.

Shehbaz is long known for his pro-establishment views in his party. There have been some reports suggesting his differences with Nawaz and Maryam over the nature of the party’s relationship with the country’s powerful establishment.

Maryam was leading a segment of the party with the slogan of ‘vote ko izat do.’ She slammed the establishment for political engineering and getting favorable verdicts from courts. However, later on, Shehbaz’s approach appeared to have prevailed as the party not only offered unconditional support to amend the law to give extension in service to the Army Chief but also Maryam went silent.

Read More: Khan’s idealism or JKT’s realism?

“Shehbaz Sharif is the establishment’s, next blue-eyed man. PM Imran is likely to remain in his seat but Shehbaz is certain to have an invisible role to reorganize his party to become a new force in Punjab,” a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told GVS. Analysts in Islamabad are mulling over the question; is PM Imran and his government are aware of what is going on in national politics? Do they consider Shahbaz Sharif a looming political threat?