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ISLAMABAD: Instead of reviewing their strategies, the two major opposition parties — the PPP and PML-N — have started passing the buck to each other for the humiliation in Tuesday’s presidential election.

The blame game continued throughout the day as the opposition leaders came to Parliament House to vote and even after the announcement of the unofficial results of the election by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“The romance of (PPP chief) Asif Zardari with the establishment that started from the barren and rocky mountains of Balochistan when he became instrumental in toppling our government in the province months before the Senate elections has now reached the green and fertile hills of Islam­abad,” remarked information secretary of the PML-N and Senator Mushahidullah Khan making a direct attack on the PPP while talking to Dawn after the expected defeat of the two opposition candidates at the hands of PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi.

Mr Khan was of the opinion that Mr Zardari had not only damaged democracy, but the PPP had itself suffered an irreparable loss. He alleged that the PPP had ditched the combined opposition twice — first by refusing to vote for Shahbaz Sharif in the election of the prime minister and then by unilaterally nominating Aitzaz Ahsan as the presidential candidate.

Another PML-N leader Engineer Amir Muqam was of the opinion that Prime Minister Imran Khan and president-elect Dr Alvi should be “thankful” to Mr Zardari for the party’s victory in the presidential election. He alleged that the PPP had played a negative role in creating a rift in the opposition alliance and every party would testify to this.

Mr Muqam in a statement said the PPP had played a “historic role” in helping the PTI in gaining control of the President House.

He suggested that as the PPP had already played its role now the ruling PTI should take some steps for the benefit of the PPP as a “goodwill gesture”.

When a reporter sought Mr Zardari’s comments on the PML-N allegations, he said with his usual smile on his face: “They are saying that Zardari has broken the opposition alliance. Why shouldn’t we say that Mian Sahab (Shahbaz Sharif) has never been in the opposition?”

On the other hand, when this similar question was put to the PML-N president, he avoided making any comment about the PPP and instead blamed the media for the disunity in the opposition’s ranks.

When contacted, PPP’s vice-president Sherry Rehman said her party had worked very hard to keep some level of unity in the opposition “but we do have a party cadre to answer to and a worldview to adhere to”.

She claimed it was wrong to suggest that they had floated Aitzaz Ahsan’s name without consulting the opposition, saying “we did try to take everyone on board in different teams to field one candidate”.

“A measure of media speculation unfortunately destroyed the confidence-building on one candidate,” she said while indirectly endorsing Mr Sharif’s viewpoint.

Another PPP leader said that fielding Maulana Fazlur Rehman was not a good move by the PML-N as it made it difficult for the party to withdraw its candidate. Even Mr Ahsan had stated before the elections that had the PML-N fielded people like Ayaz Sadiq or Raja Zafarul Haq, they would have considered withdrawing from the race.

A senior PML-N leader said he considered both the PPP and his own party responsible for the debacle in the presidential election, saying the two parties had made it an issue of ego.

Commenting on the statements coming from the two sides after the defeat in the election accusing each other for the humiliation, he said: “A bad workman always blames his tools.”

“Look at the results. We were so close, yet too far,” he added.

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 PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif against PTI chief Imran Khan in the election of prime minister despite agreeing on a formula during a meeting of the multiparty conference.

The PPP backed out of its commitment and asked the PML-N to replace Mr Sharif with some other candidate, explaining that the party could not vote for him as he had made some controversial remarks against Mr Zardari during the election campaign.

The cracks within the opposition ranks deepened when the PPP unilaterally nominated Mr Ahsan as the presidential candidate, drawing the ire of other opposition parties.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2018