Shehbaz Sharif elected president of Pakistan’s ruling party

Pakistani ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, right, claps after his younger brother and Chief Minister of Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif, center, is elected as President of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party at the General Workers Council in Islamabad on March 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Shehbaz Sharif elected president of Pakistan’s ruling party

ISLAMABAD: The younger brother of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been elected as the new president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
The PML-N General Council on Tuesday elected Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, who contested for the slot unopposed.
He was nominated as the acting president of PML-N in February by Nawaz Sharif who was barred from serving as PML-N’s president following a Supreme Court verdict.
“It is an honor for me to be elected as president of the party,” Shehbaz said. “I am thankful to Mian Nawaz Sharif and all the party workers for trusting me and providing me with this opportunity.”
Shehbaz said that he has been serving Pakistan for the past 30 years under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and would continue his journey with the support of the people. “We will win the upcoming general election despite all conspiracies,” he said.
“Nawaz Sharif is still our leader and will remain so in the future as well,” he said.
The PML-N president said that Nawaz Sharif was denied justice in the recent cases against him, but expressed the hope that he would “get justice one day.”
Addressing the General Council meeting, Nawaz Sharif said that his party had elected Shehbaz Sharif as new president of the party under compulsion.
“We have to elect Shehbaz Sharif as the party president for this situation was created for us,” he said, listing numerous development projects that were initiated across Pakistan when he was the prime minister.
“I will not back down from the mission that I have chosen. It is part of my belief now,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif said that he would keep struggling to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the country despite the challenges.
Sharif said that “respect the sanctity of the vote” would be the only manifesto of his party in the general elections. “It means respect the mandate of the people. And I’ll keep struggling for it.”
The former prime minister said that he was fighting for the betterment of the country and the people and that was why he was being punished through fabricated cases of corruption. He urged party workers to convert the general election into a referendum.
The PML-N has been facing a leadership crisis since the apex court, in its July 28 Panama Papers judgment, ordered Nawaz’s disqualification from public office and he was removed as party head.
Talking to Arab News, political analyst Tahir Malik said that Nawaz Sharif had been trying to build a narrative for the general elections by criticizing judiciary and other state institutions.
“Shehbaz Sharif should try to come out of the shadow of his elder brother if he wants to steer the party out of crisis,” he said.
“The PML-N won’t be able to win the general election if its leaders continue attacking the state institutions in their speeches,” he said. “Pakistanis won’t like politicians who target the armed forces and judiciary for political purposes,” Malik said.


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 8 min 31 sec ago
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.