ISLAMABAD: The PPP launched its campaign for presidential candidate Raza Rabbani on Tuesday and succeeded in winning over the support of the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A).
The PML-Q agreed to support the PPP nominee but only if he became the joint candidate of all opposition parties. And PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain declared in the presence of PPP leaders that no-one from his party would be a candidate. Earlier, the party had nominated Senator Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel as its candidate.
On the other hand, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) told the PPP leadership that it could not promise to support Mr Rabbani because it was a partner of the PML-N in the ruling coalition.
A PPP delegation comprising its senior members spent a busy day on Tuesday, meeting leaders of the PML-Q, ANP, BNP-A and the JUI-F and seeking support for Mr Rabbani who also attended the meetings.
The PPP started the day with a meeting in the chamber of the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, at Parliament House. The meeting decided that the PPP would approach all parties having representation in parliament and the provincial assemblies and request them to support Mr Rabbani.
The meeting was attended by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Leader of Opposition in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.
Afrasiab Khattak and Haji Adeel of the ANP and Senator Kalsoom Parveen of the BNP-A also joined the meeting and announced their parties’ support for the PPP candidate.
Later, a delegation headed by Khursheed Shah visited the residence of the PML-Q president. Chaudhry Shujaat later told reporters that no-one from his party would submit nomination papers for the election. He stressed the need for uniting the opposition and said his party would support a joint candidate.
Some TV channels quoted sources as saying that Chaudhry Shujaat had reminded the PPP leaders that Mr Rabbani had been criticising the PML-Q in recent days. But the claim was refuted by the PPP.
Mr Rabbani had opposed the PPP leadership’s decision to include the PML-Q in the ruling coalition in 2011 and had even resigned from a ministry in protest.
When contacted, PML-Q’s Information Secretary Kamil Ali Agha said his party had not announced unconditional support for the PPP nominee. Chaudhry Shujaat asked the PPP leaders to talk to other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, so that a joint candidate could be fielded against the government candidate.
Mr Agha said only a joint opposition candidate could create problems for the ruling party, otherwise, there would be no problem for the government given the numbers in parliament and provincial assemblies.
He said the PML-Q would abstain from the election if the opposition failed to come up with a joint candidate.
Khursheed Shah said the PPP team would meet PTI and MQM leaders soon to seek their support. The PPP leaders later went to the residence of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Later, talking to reporters, Maulana Fazl said he had told the PPP leaders that since it was the desire of the PML-N and the PPP to decide on a consensus candidate, it would be good for the federation if a joint candidate was agreed upon.
When contacted, JUI-F spokesperson Jan Achakzai said his party had not promised to support Mr Rabbani. “In principle, the party belongs to treasury benches so it is for the PML-N to decide,” he said, but complained that so far they had not been consulted by the PML-N over the presidential election.
“It is ironic that the opposition PPP has contacted us to seek our support, but our ally PML-N still does not have time to pay a courtesy call as required by etiquette.”
Mr Rabbani will submit his nomination papers at the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday (today).