ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart and joint candidate of the opposition parties Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that it seems the “establishment” is not supporting anyone and playing a neutral role in the upcoming Senate elections.

Talking to reporters after his meeting with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is also president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), on Monday, former prime minister Gilani claimed that he would emerge as victorious in the March 3 Senate polls, saying during his campaign he has received “positive and good response”.

“I am not [Imran] Khan Sahib’s spokesman and can’t speak on his behalf. But what I see is that the establishment is totally neutral,” Mr Gilani said when asked as to how he could win the election without the establishment’s support and whether he had reports that the establishment had distanced itself from Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Former premier meets PDM chief, denies reports about his contact with Jahangir Tareen

The former premier was accompanied by a PPP delegation comprising secretary general Nayyar Bokhari, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar.

Mr Gilani also denied reports about his contact with former secretary general of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Jahangir Tareen. “I have not met Jahangir Tareen. Neither have we talked over telephone. But since he is my relative, there is no need for me to say anything to him,” he said in response to a question.

Mr Gilani thanked the PDM leadership for nominating him as a joint candidate and said he would meet the heads of other component parties as well to thank them.

He recalled his election as prime minister in 2008, saying he had polled 264 votes while his opponent had received just 42 votes. After the election, he said, all members of the assembly unanimously supported him as the prime minister when he sought a vote of confidence from the house, adding that he had got those votes on the basis of his “personal relations”.

Mr Gilani said he would get votes this time on the basis of his performance as the prime minister, the speaker of the National Assembly, a federal minister and even as chairman of the district council of Multan.

He said he was happy that after his nomination, the members of parliament were being given respect and now the government was holding meetings with MNAs, MPAs and senators.

In response to a question about the role of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in his ouster as the prime minister, Mr Gilani simply said: “Past is past. Talk about present.”

He said that presently the PML-N was the largest opposition party and its president Shehbaz Sharif was the opposition leader and the party was supporting him in the Senate elections.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Maulana Fazlur Rehman hinted that Mr Gilani would be the opposition’s joint candidate for the office of the Senate chairman if he was elected. “We will have a good fight and will try to win it. We pray for the success of Yousuf Raza Gilani. He had served as the prime minister and the [NA] speaker and if he becomes the Senate chairman then it will be another honour for him.”

The PDM chief said that Mr Gilani’s nomination had made the matters “serious” for the government. He said that since the announcement of Mr Gilani’s candidature, no-confidence among own members and internal rift within the ruling alliance had come to surface.

Maulana Fazl criticised Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who is contesting the election against Mr Gilani on a general seat from Islamabad, and said Mr Shaikh had served as finance minister in almost all the governments and that was the reason for the economic woes the country had been facing.

He said the parliamentarians and lawmakers were representatives of the “people’s wishes”. “We want the people in the assembly to realise that if they are to give authority to such people, then where they will be taking the country?”

An interesting one-on-one contest between Mr Gilani and Dr Shaikh is expected on the only general seat from the capital. Dr Shaikh, who is presently serving in the cabinet of Imran Khan as finance minister, had previously served in the same position when Mr Gilani was the prime minister.

The competition between Mr Gilani and Mr Shaikh has acquired great significance because of the party position in the National Assembly where the ruling alliance has a majority of just 20 votes. The PDM leadership believes that Mr Gilani can secure the seat if he runs his campaign seriously as there are reports that many in the ruling alliance are unhappy over the leadership’s decision to award ticket to Dr Shaikh, who is considered an outsider and known as “parashooter” in the PTI ranks.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2021

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