Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman on Monday expressed hope that PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari would reconsider his decision and have his party vote for him in the September 4 presidential election, despite the impasse and tension between the two main opposition parties.
Soon after senior PPP leaders blamed the PML-N and the media for the growing fissures within the opposition 'alliance', and seemed all but resigned to not reaching a consensus over a presidential candidate, Rehman — the opposition's presidential nominee — said he would try and convince Zardari to back him.
"The PPP did not vote in the prime minister's elections, which resulted in Imran Khan becoming the PM by four votes," Rehman said in a press conference in Islamabad. "The act of dividing up the opposition is not popular in the public.
"It will be our effort to take him (Zardari) in confidence and convince him to reconsider his decision so that a joint candidate could contest."
The JUI leader said he "would like to meet Zardari today" to convince him to withdraw PPP nominee Aitzaz Ahsan's candidacy in his favour.
Rehman said the he and PML-N both "wanted the opposition's prime minister candidate to be from the PPP.
"However, the PPP people themselves said that the PM candidate should be from the PML-N. When a consensus was reached, then [the PPP] decided not to vote, which dispersed the opposition, and turned our hope — our decision to go into the parliament and turn the tables — into disappointment and despair."
"We would not want to give the same disappoint to our members once again," he added. "A joint position on this issue should be presented."
Opposition to field two candidates after consensus eludes
With the grand opposition alliance failing to reach consensus on a single nominee, the PPP's Ahsan and JUI-F's Rehman emerged as the two candidates challenging Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate Dr Arif Alvi's bid for the head of state's office in the September 4 election.
The failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate is expected to provide a virtual walkover to Dr Alvi, an MNA from Karachi.
Ahsan addresses objections against his nomination
Speaking to reporters after submitting his nomination papers, Ahsan said the only objection raised against his candidature had been that the PPP did not consult other opposition parties before nominating him — a claim he termed false.
The senior lawyer said his name was agreed upon at an internal party meeting, but before it could be proposed to the alliance, the nomination started doing rounds on media as PPP's 'unilateral choice'.
He said the demand put forward by PML-N leader Pervez Rashid that he (Ahsan) should apologise to Nawaz Sharif for his 'unbecoming remarks' regarding the ailment of Nawaz's wife in exchange for the PML-N's possible support was Rashid's "personal opinion", and not the PML-N's position.
Ahsan said he was surprised to hear such a demand coming from Rashid, whom he respects as a "progressive intellectual".