ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties unanimously nominated on Monday PPP’s Raza Rabbani as their candidate for the office of Senate chairman.
Mr Rabbani’s name was announced by ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan in the presence of representatives of all opposition parties represented in the Senate after a nearly four-hour meeting at Zardari House.
The name of the candidate for the office of deputy chairman would be announced later, but PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha told reporters that they had decided to nominate someone from Balochistan for the post.
Mr Rabbani will be the joint candidate of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) and Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A).
Asfandyar Wali, talking to reporters, claimed that three sitting Fata senators were also part of the opposition alliance whereas one Fata senator belonged to the JUI-F.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the JUI-F chief, attended the meeting for some time, but he was not present at the time of the announcement, indicating that the Maulana still wanted to keep his options open as he was scheduled to have a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday.
An opposition member said the JUI-F chief had stated that he would make a formal announcement regarding his party’s support for the government or the opposition at a news conference on Tuesday.
A source in the opposition told Dawn that the participants had agreed to nominate any senator from Balochistan as the candidate for the deputy chairman’s office, but deferred the announcement till such time as the JUI-F made up its mind to support the government or opposition candidate.
He said the office could go to the PML-Q, which has two senators — Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel and Rubina Irfan — or the ANP’s Daud Khan Achakzai.
Explaining the reasons for extending support to the PPP’s candidate, MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar claimed that his party had reached an understanding with the PPP over the local government system and the issue of urban-rural division in Sindh. “We have agreed to set up the local government system as early as possible.”
The MQM leader said that after devolution of most of the subjects to the provinces as a result of 18th Amendment, a new social contract was now needed.
PML-N’s last-ditch attempt to woo Muttahida fails
Terming the understanding on the Senate election a great achievement, Dr Sattar stressed the need for retaining the alliance in future for business in the upper house.
“It is necessary that this alliance remains intact while doing legislation, bringing resolution or making policies,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rabbani thanked opposition parties for reposing confidence in him and vowed to meet their expectations. He praised the role played by PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, ANP President Asfandyar Wali and PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain for the consensus over his nomination.
The sources said that during the meeting MQM members talked to party chief Altaf Hussain over telephone several times and Mr Zardari also spoke to Mr Hussain and thanked him for his support.
The meeting, presided over by Mr Zardari, was attended by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Kamil Ali Agha, Asfandyar Wali, BNP-A chief Asrarullah Zehri, MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.
Earlier, the federal capital witnessed yet another day of hectic political activities as both the PML-N and PPP continued to lure smaller parties with different offers to get their support.
SHAHBAZ SPEAKS TO ALTAF: The MQM, which has now become the third largest party in the Senate, remained the main focus of the PPP and the PML-N and in a significant move, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif talked to MQM chief Altaf Hussain over telephone.
This is stated to be the first direct contact between the leaderships of the two parties in over 17 years.
Later, the MQM’s London Secretariat issued a statement, saying that Shahbaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain had talked in a ‘pleasant environment’.
Shahbaz Sharif discussed the possibility of enhancing the mutual understanding between the MQM and the PML-N, and “sought the feasibility of cooperation between the two parties in the election of chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate”, He said it was time to move forward and forget bitterness of the past.
Mr Hussain said political and theoretical differences were part of the democratic process, but it should not become an enmity between the rivals. He said past should be forgotten to proceed in the life and everyone should respect each other.
Mr Sharif said they had to recognise each other’s mandate and expressed the wish to come to London to meet Mr Hussain.
A PPP delegation headed by Raza Rabbani had also met MQM leaders before the meeting at Zardari House.
Later, Mr Zardari also held a telephonic conversation with the MQM chief.
Mr Zardari called Mr Hussain and “discussed Senate elections, country’s political situation and other affairs of mutual interests”, said an official MQM announcement.
“Mr Asif Ali Zardari said the current situation of Pakistan needed to enhance political reconciliation and unity among people. He said the PPP and MQM had a good past record of reconciliation politics.”
Mr Hussain agreed with him and said that Pakistan was for all and the mandate of political parties should be acknowledged. He said the people who had merit should also be given a chance to rule or serve the people. He said differences were the beauty of politics, but it needed to recognise each other’s rights and responsibilities.
PML-N APPROACHES SHUJAAT: In another significant move, federal ministers Pervez Rashid and Khawaja Saad Rafique visited the residence of PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and sought his cooperation in the election for Senate’s top offices.
Former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi later told a TV channel that Chaudhry Shujaat had categorically told the PML-N members that they could support the candidates only if they were not from the PML-N.
Meanwhile, PPP’s position further strengthened in the Senate after Yousuf Badini, who had won the Senate seat as an independent from Balochistan, joined the party after meeting Mr Zardari.
The JUI-F had earlier agreed to attend the meeting at the Zardari House, but later refused to do so.
JUI-F spokesman Jan Achakzai told Dawn that the decision not to attend the opposition meeting was taken during an internal party meeting.
The PPP delegation comprising Raza Rabbani and Abdul Qayyum Soomro had twice met the JUI-F chief in the day to persuade him to attend the meeting.
Sources said that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also talked to Maulana Fazlur Rehman over telephone. The minister invited the Maulana to attend a luncheon meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and also asked him to express his reservations before Mr Sharif in the meeting.
Sources in the JUI-F said that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had reservations over some clauses of the 21st Amendment under which the military courts were set up in the country. The Maulana, they said, wanted assurances from the government that the law would not be used against religious parties and seminaries.
Since both the PPP and the PML-N have almost equal representation and were not in a position to get their candidates elected for the top Senate offices on their own, both of them had agreed to offer the office of the deputy chairman to the smaller parties.
Sources in the PML-N said the government was even ready to offer the office of the chairman to any of its allied party. They said the party was seriously considering nominating Hasil Bizenjo as its candidate for the Senate chairman.
The president has convened the sitting of the Senate on March 12 to elect its chairman and deputy chairman.
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2015