ISLAMABAD: The grand opposition alliance formed after the July 25 general elections crumbled within a month as its component parties failed to reach a consensus on a joint nominee for presidential election and fielded two candidates Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, making the Sept 4 election a one-sided affair.
The JUI-F chief, who had been playing the role of a mediator between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP, has the backing of all component parties of now defunct Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFE), whereas the PPP is now facing isolation.
Besides the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and the PML-N, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who had faced defeat in two constituencies in the last month general election, is also being supported by the Awami National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and National Party.
PML-N’s Amir Muqam also submitted his nomination papers as a covering candidate for the JUI-F chief.
The candidate of the ruling alliance, headed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Dr Arif Alvi, also submitted his nomination papers on Monday, which was the last day for submission of the documents, according to the schedule announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Before holding a meeting with Zardari, Fazl claims he will finally emerge as joint candidate of opposition parties for post of president; PPP puts blame on media leak, Pervez Rashid’s statement for discord
Talking to reporters after submitting his papers, the JUI chief expressed the hope that he would finally emerge as the single candidate of the opposition parties as there were still days to go before the presidential election.
“If I can be a mediator, then why not the candidate,” the JUI-F chief remarked with a meaningful smile. He also told the reporters that despite his efforts, both the PPP and the PML-N refused to budge from their stated positions over Mr Ahsan’s nomination.
Later in the evening, the JUI-F called on former president Asif Zardari and sought his cooperation. Sources in the PPP told Dawn that Mr Zardari had informed the Maulana that the party had already convened a meeting on Tuesday (today) in which he would put up the Maulana’s proposal before the party leaders.
The PPP claimed the media leaked a decision of the party’s internal meeting to propose Mr Ahsan as the presidential candidate even before they could consult other opposition parties, causing mistrust among them.
Speaking at a news conference, PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira and Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed said the media “wrongly” reported that the PPP had “nominated” Mr Ahsan as candidate. “It was not the case,” Mr Kaira said.
He said none of the opposition parties had raised any objection over Mr Ahsan’s candidature, but they justifiably objected to the “unilateral decision”. He said a party delegation comprising Khursheed Shah and Raza Rabbani visited the Sharifs residence in Lahore to explain the situation and then tried to make their position clear during the multiparty conference in Murree.
Mr Kaira said the statement of PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid asking Mr Ahsan to apologise to Nawaz Sharif over his remarks about Mr Sharif and his wife Kulsoom Nawaz further aggravated the situation. He said that if such a statement had not been given, they might have managed to find a middle way. However, he reminded the PML-N that it had committed great excesses against former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in the past.
About the move of other opposition parties to field Maulana Fazlur Rehman as their presidential candidate, Mr Kaira said: “We have made him a mediator and he became a candidate.”
Chaudhry Manzoor dispelled the impression that the opposition parties had formed any formal alliance.
“It was not an alliance like ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy) or the PNA (Pakistan National Alliance). Had there been such an alliance, there should have been a president and a general secretary. This was an arrangement and not an alliance,” the PPP leader explained.
Mr Kaira also said: “It will be a wrong impression that we had formed an alliance and we have now broken it.”
The PPP leaders also criticised the PML-N over its allegation that the PPP was doing all this because of some “compulsions” or under pressure due to the ongoing investigations against Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
“Don’t tell us about our compulsions. We know about everyone’s compulsions,” Mr Manzoor said, adding that Mr Zardari and his sister had appeared before the FIA in the case that had been prepared in 2014-15 when the PML-N at the helm of affairs.
After submitting his nomination papers, Aitzaz Ahsan told the media that he had been nominated by the PPP and he would have no objection even if the party later decided to withdraw his candidature.
Commenting on PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid’s statement, Mr Ahsan said he was not expecting such a statement from “a progressive and respectable intellectual”. He said the PML-N leaders claimed that the demand put forward by Mr Rashid to seek an apology from Mr Sharif was an individual’s act and not the party position. He said the PML-N told other opposition parties that it was ready “to deny the statement publicly”.
Mr Ahsan acknowledged that the ruling PTI would benefit from the split within the opposition. He added that he would ask the PML-N to review its decision and decide “if the PTI candidate suits them or Aitzaz”.
PML-N’s acting secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said it had been decided at the Murree meeting that a consensus candidate would be nominated for the presidential polls. He said all the parties had repeatedly requested the PPP to propose a panel of three names, one of whom would be nominated by the alliance through consensus, but the PPP leadership refused to nominate anyone other than Mr Ahsan. He said they had no personal grudge against Mr Ahsan but his controversial statement in which he had “politicized” Kulsoom Nawaz’s illness had hurt the feelings of PML-N workers.
Mr Iqbal expressed the hope that instead of providing a walkover to the PTI, the PPP would review its decision and support the Maulana for the sake of opposition’s unity and democracy.
Speaking on this occasion, PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq declared that the opposition parties would continue their efforts to field a joint candidate and the party leaders had a plan to meet Mr Zardari also.
The PML-N leader said they would again appeal to the PPP to review its decision and support the JUI-F chief for the sake of opposition unity.
After submitting his nomination papers, PTI MNA Dr Arif Alvi expressed the hope that he would win the presidential election with a “clear majority”.
According to the ECP, the presidential election will be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of President Mamnoon Hussain.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2018