ISLAMABAD: A grand opposition alliance with the name of “Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFE)” finally emerged on Friday to confront the new coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) as the action committee formed by the leaders of major political parties finalised a protest plan against alleged rigging in the July 25 general election.

Talking to Dawn, a member of the action committee and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said the newly formed 11-party opposition alliance would hold its first protest demonstration outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Islamabad on Aug 8, whereas the next day similar protests would be held outside the offices of the provincial election commissions.

He said the component parties of the PAFFE would direct all their winners, ticket-holders and senators to participate in the protest demonstration outside the ECP. Besides this, he added, they had also decided to lodge a strong protest inside and outside parliament during the first sitting of the National Assembly. “We will lodge a protest inside and outside parliament and it will be a strong protest, but in a civilised manner.”

‘Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections’ to confront PTI-led coalition govt; action committee devises agitation plan against poll rigging

Mr Hussain said the committee had also decided to hold public meetings and protest rallies all over the country and their dates would be finalised soon, adding that they had also decided to hold a public meeting in Islamabad. He said some parties wanted to hold the public meeting as soon as possible, but it seemed that it might not be possible before Eid which would fall in the third week of this month.

Moreover, he said, they would also organise a “national conference on rigging” in which not only the parties but members from civil society, lawyers and journalists would also be invited.

The participants of a multiparty conference had on Thursday constituted the 16-member joint action committee to prepare terms of reference, a plan for future cooperation and a joint strategy for the protest campaign.

Besides the Pakistan Peoples Party and PML-N, the opposition alliance comprises the Awami National Party, Qaumi Watan Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, National Party (NP) and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) — an amalgam of five religio-political parties, including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP-Noorani).

The alliance had already decided to field joint candidates for three coveted offices of the prime minister, National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker under an agreed formula against the PTI nominees. It was agreed that the PPP would nominate the candidate for the office of speaker, the MMA for the deputy speaker’s office and the PML-N would field the candidate for the office of prime minister.

Mr Hussain said it was the right of the parties to nominate anyone as candidate for the offices. He confirmed that the name of Shahbaz Sharif as a candidate for the office of the prime minister was discussed during the meeting, but said no final decision had so far been taken. He said Mr Sharif could nominate any other senior party member as the candidate.

Similarly, he said the PPP would decide the candidate for the office of the NA speaker. Sources in the PPP said the party had almost given a green signal to former opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah to contest for the NA speaker office.

Talking to the media after the MPC on Thursday, PPP’s Sherry Rehman said they had rejected the results of “rigged polls” and despite having different agendas and manifestos, the parties had agreed to adopt a joint strategy against the rigging. Alleging that a particular party had been supported through “interference”, she had declared that they would “fight the puppet government”.

ANP’s Iftikhar Hussain even claimed that they were “in a position to form the government”, saying that they were in “offensive mood and not in defensive mood”.

PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said that it was for the first time in the country’s history that all major parties had rejected the elections from one platform within a week after the polls.

MMA general secretary Liaquat Baloch said all the parties had decided to go to parliament and make joint efforts to “protect the Constitution and democracy”. He said they had made the ECP all powerful, but it allegedly surrendered its powers to someone else, adding that it was perhaps the first election of its kind in which the winners felt ashamed and the losers were trying to find the clue as to why they had been kept out of the race.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2018