Despite a dismal showing in the recent by-elections, the PML-N leadership appeared to be on the offensive rather than being in an introspective mood as it blamed everything from inflation to Imran Khan for its poor electoral showing.

However, members of the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition, in a defiant statement on Monday, roundly rejected PTI chief Imran Khan’s call for early elections, saying that both decisions — regarding the timing of the next polls and the appointment of a new chief of army staff — will be taken by the government and no one else.

When asked by reporters on Monday to comment on the outcome of the by-elections, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif maintained his silence. Maryam Nawaz, however, said: “We’ll sit down and explain everything, eventually.”

Both were seen leaving Hussain Nawaz’s office in Stanhope House, London, where they have held several meetings over the past week and even spoken candidly about past tribulations.

The silence of the Sharifs on the electoral blow dealt to PML-N comes days after the Sharif patriarch was quoted by a source saying in a meeting that the party had lost political capital.

RANA SANAULLAH: In a press conference on Monday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah blamed the price hike and increa­sed power tariffs for PML-N’s defeat in the Oct 16 by-elections, but said that harsh decisions had to be taken to avert the threat of default that loomed over the country.

He claimed that high electricity bills had netted PTI 10,000 to 12,000 more votes in each constituency.

Explaining the reasons behind the unpopular measures that cost the PDM government dearly in the by-polls, he held out an assurance that the price hike would be controlled and power tariffs brought down “in the days ahead”.

He also hoped things would be different in the general election, when the PTI would not enjoy the support of any provincial government.

He also announced that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif would lead the party’s campaign in the general election, scheduled to take place next year.

Slamming Imran Khan for launching what he called “venomous and contemptuous” propaganda against the chief election commissioner and the ECP, the minister praised the commission for remaining neutral throughout the electoral process.

“If we accept the decisions of PTI voters, Imran Khan should also respect our voters,” he said, pointing out that while PTI secured 0.547 million votes in the by-polls, the PML-N bagged 0.475m.

Without mentioning the PTI’s planned long march on Islamabad, the interior minister made it clear that winning by-elections does not mean that Mr Khan had a licence to go against the law.

“If you take any unlawful step, I warn you that you will face the full force of law,” he said.

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