As the race to grab the Senate's leadership intensifies, political parties have sped up their consultations over preferred candidates for the post.

According to well-placed sources, Sharif and other party leaders met with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party head Mahmood Khan Achakzai and National Party President Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo in the capital on Wednesday to devise a strategy for the election of Senate chairman scheduled for March 12, alongside the oath-taking ceremony for senators-elect.

During the meeting, Sharif was critical of former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, but supported the idea of reinstating PPP senator Raza Rabbani as Senate chairman, the source DawnNewsTV.

"I want to see a personality like Raza Rabbani as Senate chairman," Sharif was quoted as saying.

According to the source, PML-N's Saad Rafique, Mushahidullah Khan and Mushahid Hussain were tasked with contacting MQM senators for their support. The meeting took place in the evening. Meanwhile, the PML-N's allies were asked to approach senators from the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and Balochistan.

Fazl, Achakzai and Bizenjo all assured Sharif of their support and vowed to foil all conspiracies against democracy, the sources claimed.

After the meeting, Bizenjo told journalists that the three parties combined had the required numbers of votes to elect a Senate chairman of their choice, but that they were yet to reach a unanimous decision on a candidate.

He said a joint candidate would be announced on Friday.

PPP sources, on the other hand, told DawnNewsTV that the party's Saleem Mandviwala and Sherry Rehman had been strong contenders for the slot of Senate chairman, but Sherry Rehman's nomination was opposed by the PPP's allies. Farooq H. Naek's name is now being considered instead, party insiders claimed.

Later the same evening, Zardari also met with Fazl to discuss his own proposals for the Senate leadership. In the press conference after the meeting, both leaders held their cards close to their chest, but Zardari — on being asked his opinion on Rabbani's nomination by Sharif — outright rejected it.

"Thank you, but that is not what I want," he said, before abruptly turning around and leaving the podium.



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