Parties blame each other for failure to put up joint candidate

Published July 22, 2013
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah.—File Photo.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah.—File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: The nomination of separate candidates by the opposition parties for the presidential elections has once again exposed disunity in their ranks much to the benefit of the ruling PML-N’s nominee.

After announcement by the main opposition PPP that Senator Raza Rabbani would be its candidate for the Aug 6 election, other opposition parties – Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PML-Q – fielded their own candidates.

Despite the fact that no opposition party can even think of winning the election in view of their strength in parliament and four provincial legislatures, the PTI has nominated retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed and the PML-Q has fielded Senator Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel.

Admitting that the opposition is not in a position to pose any challenge to the PML-N even if it agrees on a joint candidate, the three parties accuse each other of having nominated candidates without consultations.

When contacted, PTI’s vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi alleged that the PPP had nominated Raza Rabbani without consulting his party despite having agreed to field a joint candidate.

He said he had approached Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah of the PPP and suggested that they should come up with a joint candidate since the opposition parties were not in a position to create any problem for the ruling party.

The PTI, he said, had asked the PPP to agree on a person with good reputation and not affiliated to any party. “I have told Khurshid Shah Saheb that the government’s numbers are clear and it does not require our support. Therefore, the PPP, PTI and MQM should agree on a consensus candidate,” Mr Qureshi said, adding that Mr Shah had promised to get back to him after discussing the matter with the party leadership.

The PTI leader regretted that while he was waiting for the response, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Makhdoom Amin Fahim announced at a news conference that Mr Rabbani would be the party’s candidate.

Mr Qureshi said that after the PPP’s announcement his party had no other option but to field its own candidate. He said the PTI might have even agreed on Mr Rabbani’s name if it had been consulted before the announcement was made.

Answering a question, he ruled out the possibility of agreeing on a joint candidate if the PPP continued to insist on its nominee. He said Justice Wajihuddin was a respected person and belonged to Sindh.

PML-Q’s information secretary Senator Kamil Ali Agha also accused the PPP of trying to go solo. “We have nominated our candidate in reaction to the PPP’s move.”

He said his party still desired that the opposition should field a joint candidate, adding that the PML-Q was ready to hold negotiations with parties in the opposition and he had come to know that the PPP leadership had already contacted the party president, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Mr Agha claimed that the opposition could defeat the ruling party by agreeing on a joint candidate.

Leader of Opposition Khurshid Shah claimed that the PPP nominated Mr Rabbani after the PTI had already fielded its own candidate. He confirmed that Mehmood Qureshi had talked to him on the issue, but alleged that PTI’s Fauzia Kasuri had announced on July 18 that the party had decided to field Justice Wajihuddin.

Mr Shah said that being the largest opposition party the PPP had the right to nominate its candidate. He said that perhaps Mr Qureshi was not aware that former interior minister Rehman Malik had also met PTI chairman Imran Khan in London and had discussed the matter with him.

As far as the PML-Q was concerned, he said, Mr Amin Fahim had been in touch with Chaudhry Shujaat and expressed the hope that the opposition would agree on a joint candidate. Mr Shah, who is recovering from a recent surgery, said he would be in Islamabad in a couple of days and contact parties to seek support for Mr Rabbani.

The PML-N has shortlisted three candidates — former Sindh governor Mamnoon Hussain, former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui and veteran party leader Sartaj Aziz.

Water and Power Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif formally proposed the three names to Mr Shah on Saturday and asked him to agree on one of them because the government wanted to see the next president elected unanimously.

According to the schedule announced by the Election Commission, nomination papers are to be submitted on July 24 and their scrutiny will be held on July 26. The papers may be withdrawn on July 29 when the final list of candidates will be issued.

Given the party position and affiliations in the Senate, National Assembly and four provincial legislatures, the PML-N’s nominee is set to win the election by a comfortable margin.

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