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Zardari’s options narrow down

May 10, 2013
President Asif Ali Zardari. — File photo
President Asif Ali Zardari. — File photo

by Shahzad Raza

The former ruling party has envisaged three probable scenarios in the wake of the May 11 elections. One of them suggests accepting Imran Khan as future prime minister, political sources told Dawn.com.

They said President Asif Ali Zardari was open to forge a coalition with the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) in exchange of some solid guarantees. He is going to retire in September this year and would most probably seek re-election.

The second scenario is to let the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) form the government at the centre. In case of the PML-N grabbing 120 or so National Assembly seats, the former ruling party would not block its path to form the government. Several important local and international guarantors have been engaged in backchannel negotiations to ensure the smooth transition without letting President Zardari down as well.

The third probable scenario is that the former ruling coalition performs a miracle and gets closer to required 172 NA seats. If such a possibility arises at all, President Zardari would be utilising the negotiating skill of Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid’s president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He has already taken his former coalition partner into confidence on that count, the sources added.

The political advisors to President Zardari have gone through the rigorous task of critically calculating the constituency-wise party standing. The conservative estimates they made indicate the former ruling party would possibly grab around 50 to 60 NA seats.

The estimates show that the PML-Q, which managed to get 50 seats in the 2008 general elections, may end up winning 10 NA seats. The MQM tally of 23 seats may come down from 15 to 20. Despite that, it braved the terrorist attacks the popularity of the ANP has considerably declined. The political pundits estimate that the party led by Asfandyar Wali Khan may not be able to achieve more than 10 NA seats.

For one reason or another, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) has gained ground in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Analysts are generous enough to predict 15 seats for JUI-F.

In the 342-seat house, 172 MNAs are needed to form the federal government. Assuming the above-mentioned hypothesis becomes a reality, the former ruling alliance would still be short of getting the simple majority even with the support of JUI-F and independent candidates.

Senior PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said the former ruling coalition would form the government in the centre, adding that all assertions of PML-N would vanish in thin air.

However, that depends on whether the coalition partners perform beyond their own expectations.

Sources said President Zardari is relying on Chaudhry Shujaat to cobble the post May 11 alliance. The Chaudhry brothers would try their best to keep PML-N away from the corridors of power and prefer Imran Khan as a lesser threat to their political fiefdom.

A senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader revealed that President Zardari had issued explicit instructions to his comrades not to target the PTI chairman during the election campaign. The strategy worked as Imran Khan aimed his entire munitions on Sharif brothers.

A source in the television industry said a big advertisement company devised and executed the media campaigns for both PPP and the PTI, adding that the similarities in the parties’ electronic and print ads were more than obvious.

The former ruling party is pinning high hopes on the PTI factor which, according to it, would dent the PML-N in urban Punjab. The most common and simplistic analysis is that the PTI would divide the rightwing and conservative vote, thus benefiting PPP candidates.

Analysts say that if PPP musters the support of the required 172 MNAs to form the government, a 1977-like situation may emerge. The opposition would never accept the results.

A few leaders whose loyalty with PPP is time-tested already suggested that the party must stay in opposition for the next five years. They contended that for one reason or another, the party faced serious disintegration and needed massive overhaul.

Sources said leaders including Raza Rabbani, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Khurshid Shah, et cetera are advocating the idea of sitting in opposition and fixing the wrongs.

They have also reminded the party’s top decision maker to bear in mind two important transitions which are to take place later this year — the retirement of the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief Justice of Pakistan in November and December respectively.

— The writer is a freelance contributor. His twitter handle is @shahz79