LAHORE: The Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) led by Pir Pagara and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) have joined hands and announced contesting 2018 election on one symbol across the country.

The GDA and PML-Q have also agreed to bring all like-minded parties and individuals, including disgruntled leaders of the PML-N, on this platform to make a ‘formidable’ political entity ahead of upcoming election.

This decision was announced by GDA and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional chief Pir Pagara Sibghatullah Rashdi and PML-Q’s Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at a press conference here on Wednesday.

Agree to contest on one symbol

This alliance has been formed a couple of days after a group of PML-N MNAs and MPAs parted ways with the Sharif brothers and launched the South Punjab Province Front (for creation of the new province).

“GDA-PML-Q alliance’ scope is not limited. We will gather all like-minded and patriotic parties and all Muslim Leagues except PML-N on this platform before the election,” Pervaiz Elahi said and added this alliance would soon be active in other provinces as well. He said the party (PML-N) that was a hurdle to gather all Muslim Leagues on one platform was at the brink of disaster.

Formalities regarding contesting the election from GDA’s platform will be decided later. “Such modalities will be worked out later. I am ready to leave the top post if someone from Punjab is interested in leading the alliance,” Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi said. He hoped that the GDA would perform well in the election.

“Clean and impartial people should be taken in the caretaker set-up. In 2013, the people inducted in the caretaker set-up maneuvered election. Ours 17 seats were given to PPP in Sindh. The 2018 election should be transparent,” he said, adding the Chaudhry brothers had been asked to expedite their efforts to invite all like-minded parties and persons, especially in Punjab, to contest next election on this platform. When asked would GDA invite Imran Khan’s PTI to make an alliance or seat adjustment with it, Mr Rashdi said: “We will invite PTI (to contest election jointly).”

The PTI has already declared that it will not forge election alliance with any political party as it does not suit it. But Chaudhry Shujaat said: “When time comes it will be seen who goes along with whom.” When asked would this alliance accept retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, Pervaiz Elahi said: “Its doors are open to all patriotic people.” Replying to another question about reports that the Sharif family had contacted the Chaudhry brothers, Mr Elahi said: “We are not in contact with the Sharif brothers for the last 15 years.”

PML-Q information secretary and former Senator Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn that all those parties that are going to become part of the GDA would contest on one symbol. “It will not be a merger but an alliance. The GDA member parties will maintain their entity. The GDA will approach the ECP for an election symbol,” he said.

Mr Agha further said those saying good bye to PML-N might also join the GDA. “In coming days big names will announce joining the GDA across the country,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Rashdi held a meeting with the Chaudhry brothers, PML-Q parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly Moonis Elahi, MNA Tariq Bashir Cheema, Wajahat Hussain and Dr Azeemuddin Lakhvi and discussed the modalities of the alliance.

Talking to TV channel, GDA leader and former federal minister Ghaus Bux Mehr from Sindh said MMA would also be approached for seat adjustment.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018