• Insiders say PML-N offers PPP ‘president, Senate chairman, NA speaker’ slots
• PPP central executive committee meets today; huddle between N-League, PML-Q also expected
• Shehbaz takes Fazl into confidence over PPP talks, seeks JUI-F support
LAHORE: As political wheeling and dealing has reached its peak in the aftermath of the Feb 8 vote in which not a single political party could secure a simple majority, the PML-N and PPP have formally started consultations to form a government in the Centre with the help of their allies.
Against the backdrop of the dialogue with the PPP, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif contacted JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to take him into confidence regarding the meeting with the PPP and also sought his support in the formation of the federal government. Maulana Fazl said he would get back to the PML-N on Wednesday.
Similarly, a meeting with the MQM was also held in Lahore, whereas a meeting with the PML-Q led by Shujaat Hussain in Islamabad is due today (Monday).
This flurry of political activities came at a time when the PTI-backed independent candidates are leading in the National Assembly polls, with at least 93 seats. PML-N and PPP respectively have 75 and 54 seats.
As they established a formal contact on Sunday, a team led by Shehbaz Sharif arrived at Bilawal House in Lahore to meet Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and held discussions for more than an hour. Only a joint declaration about the meeting was issued, which termed the huddle ‘constructive’, but did not lay out a concrete plan.
The declaration said the “discussion included the assessment of Pakistan’s overall situation, deliberations on future political strategies, and the exchange of recommendations aimed at promoting stability and progress across the board”.
Insiders told Dawn that the PML-N wanted to keep the slot of the prime minister, just like the PDM coalition government, and in return it offered to the PPP the coveted slots of the president, National Assembly speaker, and the Senate chairman. The PPP leaders said they would consult the central executive committee in its scheduled meeting in Islamabad today.
The declaration said that the meeting was held in a cordial environment and it expressed commitment to putting the nation’s interest and well-being above everything. “The leaders of both parties engaged in substantive discussions regarding the prevailing political landscape and the imperative of collaborative efforts for the betterment of the country.”
It said that reflecting a spirit of consensus-building, the leaders acknowledged the importance of establishing a framework for ‘sustained political cooperation’ between the PML-N and PPP, laying the groundwork for a stronger, more united approach to addressing the challenges facing the nation.
Both parties affirmed their dedication to steering the country away from political instability and towards a path of prosperity and resilience. Emphasising the mandate seemingly bestowed upon them by the ‘majority of the people’, the leaders underscored their unwavering commitment to fulfilling the aspirations of the people and ensuring their voices are heard and heeded, it said.
The PML-N delegation comprised Azam Nazeer Tarar, Ayaz Sadiq, Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Tanveer, Saad Rafique, Malik Ahmad Khan, Marrriyum Aurangzeb, and Shaza Fatima.
Separately, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who was in Lahore a day ago, rushed to Islamabad in the morning to meet US Ambassador Donald Blome and “discuss with him federal government’s formation and the Feb 8 election process”, sources claimed. On his return from Islamabad, the PPP chairperson held an hour-long meeting with Asif Zardari at the airport before the duo left for Bilawal House.
A meeting between Nawaz Sharif and PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujat was due in Lahore on Sunday evening. However, it was postponed for Monday in Islamabad. The Q-League has won three NA seats. A delegation of the MQM, which enjoys 17 NA seats, also called on the PML-N leadership in Lahore and assured the hosts of its cooperation in “steering the country out of crisis”.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024