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LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will convene a multi-party conference (MPC) shortly after Eidul Azha to develop consensus among opposition parties to jointly field a candidate in the election of president.

“To deliberate upon opposition parties’ desires to come up with a unanimous presidential candidate, a multi-party conference will be held after Eid,” PML-N senior leader Ahsan Iqbal told media personnel after a meeting with a delegation of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that visited the PML-N secretariat in Model Town here on Tuesday.

The PPP team comprising former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and former opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah visited the PML-N leadership to seek support for Aitzaz Ahsan, whom the PPP has nominated for the presidential election to be held on Sept 4.

PPP delegation holds meeting with N-League leaders to seek support for Aitzaz Ahsan

The ruling coalition led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has named MNA from Karachi Dr Arif Alvi as its candidate. Dr Alvi visited the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) headquarters in Karachi earlier in the day to seek its support for him.

The PML-N has expressed reservations over the nomination of Mr Ahsan, who had spoken against former prime minister and supreme leader of PML-N Nawaz Sharif and his wife Kulsoom’s ailment, while PPP decision of not voting for Shahbaz Sharif in the race for prime minister’s office held the previous week also didn’t go down well with the former.

Mr Iqbal, who was accompanied by former speaker of National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanveer Hussain, quoted PPP general secretary Farhatullah Babar as saying that Mr Ahsan’s name was not final.

A final decision on the candidate would be taken at the post-Eid MPC in Islamabad or Murree, the PML-N leader said, stopping short of giving the day for the opposition parties’ proposed meeting.

Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, however, told Dawn that the meeting would be held on Aug 24 (Friday) in Islamabad keeping in view the short time available for going to presidential polls.

Mr Iqbal feared that if the opposition remained divided on launching a joint candidate, it would give a free hand to the ruling PTI to install its nominee as president.

A source said that the PML-N would take its decision on the elections, whether it would introduce its own candidate or extend support to any other party’s nominee, after a meeting of Shahbaz Sharif with Nawaz Sharif in Adiala jail due on Friday as the prisons department has refused to allow the meeting on Thursday because of the Eid holidays.

However, the PPP had been told in clear terms that Mr Ahsan would not be supported in any case.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2018