ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, the two arch rivals of the past — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have agreed to field joint candidates in all constituencies across the country, except in Tandlianwala (Punjab), in the Oct 14 by-elections.

This was announced by the leaders of the two parties on Wednesday during their talk with reporters after a series of meetings on the collaboration.

PPP secretary general Nayyar Hussain Bokhari said the two parties had been engaged in talks for the past few weeks over the prospects for jointly contesting the by-polls. With the approval of the leadership of both sides, they have now decided that they would field joint candidates on the seats of National and provincial assemblies.

Mr Bokhari said PPP and PML-N would not only support each other’s candidates, but would also actively participate in their election campaign. He said they were making efforts to join hands with other parties as well.

Punjab PPP president Qamar Zaman Kaira said the two parties had agreed on a formula under which the PPP would support the PML-N candidates in all the National and provincial assembly constituencies in Punjab, except Rahimyar Khan where the PML-N would support the PPP-nominated candidate. Similarly, the PML-N would support the PPP candidates in all the constituencies in Karachi.

PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said PPP had also agreed to support PML-N on the Islamabad seat vacated by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan.

Tandlianwala was an exception since elections had been delayed in the area, he added.

Mr Sanaullah said the first round of talks on Wednesday was held in the parliament chamber of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif after which the leaders of the two parties kept on interacting with each other. Then a final meeting was held at the Parliament Lodges in which they finalised the formula for jointly fielding candidates in the by-polls.

Shahbaz-led team calls on Maulana Fazl A PML-N delegation, led by Shahbaz Sharif, also called on Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman with a request to convene another multi-party conference (MPC) of opposition parties.

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 against Imran Khan in the election of prime minister. Talking to reporters after the meeting, Maulana Fazl said they had no expectations from the PTI government which had “acquired power through backdoor”. He said the PTI members were themselves claiming that they enjoyed the support of the army and the judiciary. “What message they want to give to the nation?” he asked.

However, the PPP had backed out of its commitment and asked the PML-N to replace Shahbaz Sharif with another candidate, insisting that the PPP could not vote for him as he had made controversial remarks against the party chief Asif Zardari during the election campaign.

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

Published in Dawn, October 4th , 2018