Opposition parties to announce joint candidate for presidential election tomorrow

Published August 25, 2018
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal addresses the media. Photo: DawnNews
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal addresses the media. Photo: DawnNews

Representatives of the divided opposition met on Saturday at incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's opulent Murree residence to hammer out an agreement over a joint candidate for the September 4 presidential election.

PML-N's acting Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, addressing the media after the huddle, said the opposition would announce its joint candidate for the head of state's office tomorrow (Sunday).

"It is important for Pakistan that the opposition come together and nominate a joint candidate for the office," he said.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition parties, Iqbal, while supporting the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis, nonetheless criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for trying to implement the electronic polling process 'in haste' before the upcoming by-polls.

“The election commission’s online system already failed during the general elections. We therefore disagree with the hasty implementation of the [electronic] system of voting for overseas Pakistanis,” Iqbal said.

Touching upon alleged “threats” received by opposition leaders, Iqbal said: “ It is the duty of the government to provide security to opposition leaders, and the incumbent government should take notice of the threatening calls made to certain leaders of opposition parties.”

Opposition huddle

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and leaders Ayaz Sadiq, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Dr Tariq Fazl Chaudhry had arrived at the house earlier this morning for the meeting.

The PPP, represented by former opposition leader Khurshid Shah and leaders Sherry Rehman, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, arrived later in the afternoon.

The Awami National Party's Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Miyan Iftikhar and the National Party's Hasil Bizenjo were also in attendance.

The decision to call the meeting had been made by PML-N leaders after a PPP delegation visited the former’s secretariat in Lahore a day before Eidul Azha (Tuesday) to seek support for Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been nominated by the PPP to contest the presidential election to be held on Sept 4.

The PPP team, comprising former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and Khursheed Shah, had met the PML-N leadership after the latter expressed reservations over the nomination of Ahsan, who had, in a TV interview, uttered uncharitable words about Nawaz and his wife Kulsoom’s ailment.

After their meeting, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal had quoted PPP General Secretary Farhatullah Babar as saying that Ahsan’s name for the president's slot was "not final".

However, Iqbal had 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, Dr Arif Alvi, as president.

Differences remain

Sources in the PML-N had told Dawn that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had discussed the presidential election with his elder brother during a meeting at Adiala jail on Thursday.

On Friday, PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid had asked Ahsan to apologise to Nawaz Sharif for criticising the latter. Talking to reporters after meeting Nawaz in Rawalpindi, Rashid had said that the PML-N could consider Ahsan’s nomination only “if he visits Adiala jail and apologises to Nawaz Sharif”.

When contacted, PPP secretary general Babar had refused to comment on Pervez Rashid’s condition for Ahsan’s support and said that they were going to the MPC to hear the arguments of other parties.

He also confirmed that the PPP had not yet officially nominated Ahsan as a candidate for the coming presidential elections.

A marriage of (in)convenience

The grand opposition alliance formed by 11 parties soon after the July 25 elections had fallen apart within weeks following the PPP’s refusal to vote for Shahbaz Sharif in the election for the prime minister's office despite it earlier agreeing on a formula that had authorised the PML-N to nominate any candidate for the PM's office.

The rifts had only grown with the nomination of PPP's legal wizard, Aitzaz Ahsan, as a candidate for the post of president.

PML-N leaders who came to know about Ahsan’s nomination through the media had reacted strongly and stated in categorical terms that Ahsan could not be considered a joint opposition candidate because the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision.

“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,” PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan had stated while commenting on the PPP’s move.

He had even alleged that the PPP had nominated Ahsan intentionally in order to provide a walkover to the PTI in the presidential election.

Talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, a senior PPP leader said that they had refused to vote for the younger Sharif only because of his controversial statements against the PPP leadership in the past and conceded that the PML-N seemed also to be taking the same position.

“In my opinion, the PML-N seems to be justified in its position of not supporting Ahsan”, he added.

The PPP leader said his party was hoping that in Saturday’s meeting the PML-N would come up with some suggestions to provide “face-saving” to the PPP “if it is really sincere in keeping the opposition alliance intact”.

“The PML-N can ask us to suggest three or four names, including the name of Aitzaz Ahsan, so that we can say publicly that we have not withdrawn the name of Ahsan,” he said. Similarly, the PPP believes that the PML-N will not stick to its condition that Ahsan should physically seek an apology from Nawaz Sharif and that there could be some way out.

Liaqat Baloch of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal said that they would participate in the Murree meeting, but would not be in a position to endorse any decision as they had already convened a meeting of the MMA in Islamabad on August 26.

“Whatever be our decision, we will announce it after our own meeting on 26th,” he added.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced the schedule for the presidential election, which are to be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of the incumbent, President Mamnoon Hussain.

Opinion

Time to wake up

Time to wake up

The criticism reflects our failure to counter rising religious intolerance and bigotry, and also exposes a diplomatic debacle.
Which nationalism?
Updated 05 May 2021

Which nationalism?

After decades of apparent self-sufficiency, India has again begun to ask for and receive vaccines and other necessary material.
The TLP and elections
Updated 04 May 2021

The TLP and elections

Pakistan has always made space for Islamist parties electorally; they have rarely been successful enough to be a national force.

Editorial

05 May 2021

Path of growth

FINANCE MINISTER Shaukat Tarin finally specified the future direction that the country’s economic policy will take...
05 May 2021

Human rights 2020

THE human rights situation in Pakistan, almost predictably bleak every year, was deeply impacted in 2020 by an...
Unreasonable behaviour
Updated 05 May 2021

Unreasonable behaviour

Usman Buzdar should reprimand Dr Awan for her coarse behaviour and make sure she tenders a public apology.
Electoral reforms
Updated 04 May 2021

Electoral reforms

A rigging-proof system, which cannot be manipulated through technical delays, is possible if stakeholders sit together.
04 May 2021

Unmet tax targets

THE FBR has increased its tax collection by 14pc to Rs3.8tr this year during the 10-month period from July to April...
04 May 2021

Routine immunisation

AS countries around the world grapple with the deadly third wave of Covid-19 and we witness the horrific devastation...