LAHORE - The PML-N leadership has hinted at fielding loyal and competent candidates in the next Senate elections and wants to see Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the upper house, which does not seem possible in the prevailing circumstances.

The participation of Ishaq Dar in the upcoming Senate elections is facing obstacles both of legal and political nature. The NAB references against Dar are the main hurdle in the way of his contesting the election and how easily or otherwise this obstacle is removed depends upon the judicial side.

The six-year term of Ishaq Dar as a senator will end on March 3 and with it his finance ministry will also go. His retention in the federal cabinet as the finance minister was fought tooth and nail by the party in the past and it again wants him to hold the office until end of the PML-N government. This, however, is not possible without his membership of the upper house of the Parliament.

Currently, Ishaq Dar is in London for the treatment of heart disease that he had caught so seriously after the references of money laundering and for keeping resources beyond his known means of income were filed in the trial court in September last. Dar who last appeared before the Court on October 27 left for London on October 30 and is still there. The trial court repeatedly directed him to appear, but he failed to do so, upon which he was declared a proclaimed offender on November 29 and the trial of the references against him is going on in absentia. Non-bailable arrest warrants have also been issued for him.

After indictment in the references in September last, Dar came under immense pressure for stepping down, but he refused. It was generally believed at that time that Dar was adamant in his determination to hold the office as PML-N President Nawaz Sharif did not want to see him out of the Abbasi cabinet. As such he took three months’ leave from the prime minister and stayed in London where he is undergoing medical treatment.

As regards the stage of the cases, they are going on in the accountability court and were to be decided within the six-month time fixed by the Supreme Court on July 28.

It has been gathered from the PML-N insiders that the party president and former premier, Nawaz Sharif, strongly desires his Samdhi and confidant, Ishaq Dar, to return to the upper house for another six-year term through the March 3 elections. From the viewpoint of the party as well as the former premier, the continuation of Dar in the Senate will be a helping hand in mitigating the difficulties being faced by the Sharifs in the criminal references, besides enabling Dar to fight his own legal matters.

The second term of Dar in the Senate will not only be a morale booster for Nawaz Sharif, but also be a satisfying factor for him that his close relation is not marooned in politics and commands respect of a senator.

The PML-N sources say the party is seriously pondering over the ways and means which can facilitate Dar to contest the Senate polls. However, it is seeing heavy odds in the way. They say the party also discussed Dar’s election at the recent meetings, but found a little hope to get a clear picture on this issue as the final list of the Senate candidates has to be made public by the ECP in next week.

Sharing the fears, the sources say although Ishaq Dar has not been convicted in any reference, he can be arrested on arrival in the country because he has been declared an absconder with non-bailable warrants. The party is likely to come under immense embarrassment and demoralisation if that happens. Another thinking goes on in the party that Ishaq Dar’s election to the Senate will be useless if he fails to take oath and does not attend the Senate while staying abroad.

It is evident from the above that chances are not bright for Ishaq Dar to contest the Senate election again although a strong lobby in the party wants him to be present in the upper house. Despite all that, brainstorming continues and the party is swinging between hopes and fears over Dar’s name for the Senate candidate.