ISLAMABAD: Cracks in the alliance of opposition parties have further widened following a unilateral decision by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to nominate senior party leader and legal wizard Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate for the post of president of the country.
Reacting to media reports that the PPP has decided to field Mr Ahsan in the Sept 4 presidential election against the nominee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Dr Arif Alvi, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) on Sunday categorically stated that Mr Ahsan could not be considered a joint opposition candidate because the PPP had not consulted any of the parties sitting on the opposition benches before making the decision.
The PML-N is also angry because the PPP refused to vote for its president Shahbaz Sharif in the Aug 17 election for the office of prime minister only because of his controversial statements against the PPP leadership in the past, whereas the PPP has now nominated a person who had also made some nasty remarks about the illness of Nawaz Sharif and his wife Kulsoom Nawaz in recent past.
PML-N says it can’t vote for PPP’s candidate in presidential election, terms move part of strategy to provide walkover to PTI
“How can you expect us to vote for the nominee of Asif Ali Zardari after refusal of the PPP to vote for our president (Shahbaz Sharif) in the National Assembly and our candidate (Hamza Shahbaz for the office of chief minister) in the Punjab Assembly,” said PML-N information secretary and Senator Mushahidullah Khan, when contacted to seek his party’s viewpoint on the PPP’s move.
Mr Khan alleged the PPP had nominated Mr Ahsan intentionally in order to provide a walkover to the PTI in the presidential election. “The PPP has been hand in glove with the PTI since earlier this year when first it managed to topple the PML-N government in Balochistan and then got Sadiq Sanjrani elected as Senate chairman.” The PML-N leader claimed that the PPP was doing all this “under pressure” after the opening of the fake accounts case against Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur. “You see, how he (Mr Zardari) has been granted a protective bail in the case on a holiday,” he said in reference to the granting of two weeks’ protective bail to the PPP co-chairman by the Islamabad High Court on Saturday, only a day after a banking court had issued arrest warrants for him.
Mr Khan advised the PPP to better “formally” join the treasury benches with the PTI, instead of “playing tricks” on the opposition parties. He termed the PPP’s justification of not voting for Shahbaz Sharif “unrealistic and an excuse”.
The PPP had refused to vote for Mr Sharif despite agreeing on a formula during an opposition parties’ multi-party conference earlier this month that authorised the PML-N to nominate any candidate for the PM office.
Mushahidullah Khan recalled that when Shahbaz Sharif had stated that he would drag Asif Zardari in the streets, the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif as well as the PML-N had expressed their displeasure and asked the younger Sharif to withdraw his statement. On the other hand, he said, Mr Zardari never withdrew the offensive remarks he had uttered against Nawaz Sharif on a number of occasions.
When asked if the PML-N would not vote for Mr Ahsan because of his controversial statements about the illness of the ousted prime minister and his wife, Mr Khan said that “this issue is irrelevant” as they knew that the PPP was actually a ‘B-team’ of the PTI.
When contacted, PPP’s Punjab secretary general Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed rejected the PML-N’s allegation that the party or Mr Zardari had been doing all this under pressure. “There is no pressure on us,” he said, adding that had there been any deal, Anwar Majeed would not have been arrested in the fake accounts case.
The PPP leader said that so far they had only proposed the name of Aitzaz Ahsan and they would soon start contacts with other parties. He claimed that the party was in touch with the PML-N at “certain level” and was awaiting a response.
Responding to a question, Mr Ahmed said Shahbaz Sharif could not have won the election even if the PPP had voted for him. “You could only raise objections if we had voted for Imran Khan,” he added.
The PPP leader said the party had tasked different members with contacting political parties on its proposal to nominate Mr Ahsan for the post of president.
Similarly, PPP information secretary Dr Nafeesa Shah said that Aitzaz Ahsan was the best choice for the office of president as he had a long struggle for the cause of democracy in his credit. She said the president should be a person like Aitzaz Ahsan who should be acceptable to the federation.
Rejecting the PML-N’s objections to Mr Ahsan’s unilateral nomination, she said that “every party has its own strategy”.
The PTI has already approved the nomination of Dr Arif Alvi as the party’s candidate for the post of president.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced the schedule for the presidential election which will be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of President Mamnoon Hussain.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2018