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Maryam Nawaz can take the party forward: Raja Zafarul Haq

Maryam Nawaz Sharif could take over the reigns of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), after her father, Nawaz Sharif, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday.

“The option is available to have Maryam Nawaz take the party forward,” Raja Zafarul Haq, PML-N member and leader of the opposition in the Senate, told Geo.tv. “Whenever she is ready, she can join the ranks of the party.”

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison by an accountability court in July last year. In the same ruling, the Supreme Court ousted and disqualified Sharif and barred him from holding political office in the future.

In February, the PML-N elected Sharif instead as Quaid (leader) for life, while his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, was voted in as president. Later, the younger Sharif was arrested by Pakistan’s anti-graft body for alleged involvement in a housing scam.

This week, the accountability court again sentenced Nawaz Sharif to seven years in another charge related to his assets. The next day he was moved to the central jail in Lahore.

With both brothers behind bars, the PML-N has been thrown into a leadership crisis.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who played a prominent role last year in the party’s political affairs, and would frequently tweet to defend her father and his political party, was being named as the heir apparent. But after the death of her mother, she kept a low profile, only to resurface again on Twitter, on the day of her father’s sentencing.

While Maryam Nawaz Sharif could steer the party, all internal decisions will be taken by the elder Sharif, Haq adds. “Nawaz Sharif is the Quaid of PML-N. Wherever he might be he will be consulted in every matter.”

Another popular leader also undergoing a probe in the apex court is former president and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Asif Ali Zardari. He is accused of siphoning large amounts of money through fake bank accounts.

There has been talk of the two parties – PML-N and PPP – coming together to mount a joint opposition against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which they blame of instigating these charges as political revenge. “The joint opposition, if launched, will be inside and outside the parliament,” said Haq, “But whatever shape it takes, we will make sure that it is within the ambit of the law.”

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