LAHORE: The PML-N which has taken PPP on board for fielding joint candidates for the slots of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker in the Centre (the National Assembly) is finding it hard to cut the same arrangement with the party in Punjab.

“We are in talks with the PML-N, but we have decided in principle to sit in the opposition in the Punjab Assembly,” former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of the PPP told Dawn on Saturday.

Mr Gilani is heading a six-member PPP committee formed to contact the other parties for formation of governments in the Centre and Punjab.

Related: PTI’s Punjab CM choice may take a few more days

He said the PPP succeeded in persuading other parties to join to the parliament as its prime objective was to strengthen democracy. “We are not keen to form the government. Despite concerns over the transparency of the polls, we do not want to let democracy weaken. During talks with other parties like the PML-N we did not demand anything. In the Punjab Assembly, where the PPP has six seats, we did not prefer to go in some kind of arrangement with any party and decided to sit in the opposition,” the former premier said.

Interestingly in the Centre, the PPP, the PML-N, the MMA, the ANP and other parties have decided to field candidates jointly for the slots of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. According to the decision unanimously taken by these parties, the candidate for prime minister office will be from the PML-N, speaker from the PPP and deputy speaker from the MMA.

The PML-N, which is facing disappointment in wooing the independent MPAs-elect in Punjab, with no support of the PPP, has virtually bleak chances to compete with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf backed candidates for top slots of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker. The PTI claims to have achieved the required number to form the government in Punjab.

Shahbaz Sharif, who over a week ago had called on the PPP’s senior leader and former governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood to seek his party’s support in formation of government in Punjab, seems to have quit efforts in this regard. So far not a single independent MPA-elect out of 28 announced joining the PML-N, showing its complete failure in this respect.

Even the PML-N could not woo MPA-elect Jugnu Mohsin, wife of the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Mr Najam Sethi, who was considered close to the Sharifs. In spite of Shahbaz Sharif holding a meeting with her last week to convince her to join his oarty, Ms Mohsin has preferred to stay independent.

The PML-Q on the other hand claims it is in contact with both the PPP and PML-N MPAs-elect to get vote for speaker and other slots. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi will be a joint PTI-PML-Q candidate for the slot of speaker in Punjab Assembly after Imran Khan asked him to stay in the province to handle the PML-N-led opposition.

“We will seek vote from both the PPP and the PML-N members for our speaker and other candidates. We are getting good response from them,” PML-Q central information secretary Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn.

The PML-N also fears that Pervaiz Elahi may cause fissures in the party. Apparently in this backdrop Shahbaz had recently taken pledge from the PML-N MPAs-elect to stay united.

The PML-N still insists that it is not out of the race for Punjab. “We are in contact with many independents and the PPP members and have got good response from them. Our efforts are on to form government in Punjab,” PML-N MPA-elect and former Punjab government spokesman, Malik Muhammad Ahmad said.

The PML-N emerged as the largest party in Punjab with 129 seats, followed by the PTI’s 123, PML-Q eight, PPP six and 28 independents in the directly elected house of 297. With the addition of 66 women on reserved seats and eight of minorities, at least 185 members are required to form government in the province.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2018

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