LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has reacted strongly to PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani’s election as leader of the opposition in the Senate, saying the move has damaged the unity of the opposition alliance — the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — and that the party will take the matter to PDM’s next meeting for a decision.

On the other hand, the PPP says the PML-N has ‘renewed fight with it’ which will further weaken the opposition alliance. It says calling the PPP ‘a sarkari (government) opposition’ will certainly not help the PDM’s cause.

Feeling embittered over PPP’s move to grab the slot of leader of the opposition in the Senate, PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said: “We did not like seeing Mr Gilani going to meet Sadiq Sanjrani, who is accused of stealing the election of the Senate chairman, to get the notification for his (Gilani) success issued.”

Flanked by Pervaiz Rashid, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Rana Sanaullah and PML-N’s candidate for the opposition leader’s slot Azam Nazeer Tarar, Mr Iqbal asked at a presser here on Friday how come the senators of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), which is an ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, voted for Mr Gilani.

PPP says PML-N has ‘renewed fight with it’

“Mr Gilani has become the leader of the opposition after taking the votes of BAP senators and it is in common knowledge from whom they take instructions,” he said while referring to the powers that be.

“Mr Gilani is worthy of respect but it was expected from him to take the PDM into confidence, as without its support he could never have been elected as a senator. The PPP chose to take a unilateral step,” he said.

He further taunted the PPP by saying: “If the PPP was so desperate to grab this seat and had some compulsions it should have told PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif, who would have happily given it to it (PPP).”

Mr Iqbal said that PPP’s act of shaking hands with BAP and ignoring the PDM’s decision in this regard had certainly ‘damaged’ the unity of the opposition alliance. “All PDM parties, except the PPP and ANP, had accepted its decision regarding nomination of Azam Tarar as the opposition leader in the Senate and these two parties should have respected that decision,” he said and added the PML-N nominee for the Senate opposition slot had 27 votes while the PPP had 21, but the latter secured the support of BAP (to grab the seat).

When asked whether the PDM would remain intact after this development, the PML-N leader said: “Whosoever will betray the objectives of the PDM will pay a heavy price at the end of the day. However, we still hope that PDM survives.”

He also endorsed a question about the PPP becoming a ‘sarkari (government) opposition’.

Mr Iqbal said the PML-N would place the matter during the next PDM meeting for a decision.

Responding to the PML-N leaders’ presser, PPP’s Punjab Secretary General Chaudhry Manzoor told Dawn that PML-N had once again renewed its fight with the PPP over an issue that had already been settled.

“The PPP had made it clear that it would not vote for Azam Tarar (for being a lawyer for the accused police officials in Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto murder case). Had the PML-N shown some flexibility and brought forth some other candidate the PPP might have considered to vote for him/her,” he said, adding which party was ‘government’s opposition’ everyone knew.

“We can also question who had a mukmuka (deal) in Punjab Senate polls with the PTI,” Mr Manzoor said and warned the PML-N that renewal of bickering would further weaken the PDM.

Earlier, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman had intervened and stopped the two mainstream parties (PML-N and PPP) from issuing harsh statements against each other.

The PPP previously had agreed to give the office of the opposition leader to PML-N in return for nomination of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani for the office of Senate chairman, but after his (Gilani’s) defeat, the situation changed.

PPP had not only rejected Azam Nazeer Tarar’s nomination, but also lodged a protest over it with the PML-N leadership because Mr Tarar is a lawyer for the accused police officials in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2021

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