PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani, who has been fielded as a joint candidate of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for the upcoming Senate elections from Islamabad, side-stepped a query regarding the establishment's alleged support for Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying he believes that the establishment is "totally neutral".
Gilani was speaking to the media on a visit to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman's residence in Islamabad. When asked if he believed that the establishment was "distancing itself" from Prime Minister Imran as the Senate election drew nearer, Gilani said: "I am not Khan sahib's spokesperson. But it seems like the establishment is totally neutral."
The former premier's statement is in contrast with the stance of other opposition parties that are part of the PDM, especially the JUI-F and PML-N, who accuse the establishment of "selecting" the incumbent government.
Gilani also denied rumours that he had made contact with PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen, whether telephonic or otherwise. He added, however, that Tareen was his "relative".
The PPP leader expressed confidence that he will emerge victorious in the Senate polls, saying that response to his nomination had been "positive". He recalled his election for premiership, saying that he had amassed 264 votes while his opponent received 42, following which the opposition agreed to cast a vote of confidence in Gilani's favour.
"I got those votes on the basis of my personal relations," he said.
He also thanked the PDM leadership for selecting him and said that his nomination has "given respect to members of parliament" as the government was now ready to talk to MNAs and MPAs as well.
Earlier, Rehman too spoke to the media and said that Gilani's nomination has made matters "serious" for the government. He noted that the government had nominated Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh from Islamabad, who has held the country's economy "in his hands during every government's tenure". Rehman said that parliamentarians and lawmakers "are representatives of people's wishes", adding, "We want people in the assembly to realise that if we are to give authority to such people, then where are we taking this country?"
The JUI-F chief further said that the masses want people who can pull the country out of crises in vital positions.
The ruling PTI has challenged Gilani's nomination in the Election Commission of Pakistan, alleging that the former prime minister concealed facts in his nomination papers. PTI's Senate candidate from Islamabad Fareed Rehman said that Gilani had failed to mention his conviction in a contempt of court case back in 2012.