KARACHI, Nov 23: Although it is still not clear whether the president will doff his uniform after the Supreme Court’s controversial verdict on Friday, most political parties have moved into top gear and are busy finalising the lists of candidates who will take part in the Jan 8 elections.

Friday turned out to be a hectic day for all of them as the leadership of at least three parties hurriedly sought names from aspiring candidates and went into session to finalise the lists as only 72 hours remain for submitting nomination papers to the returning officers.

While the Pakistan People’s Party announced its candidates for the reserved women’s and minorities’ seats, the PML-Q constituted its provincial parliamentary board to award tickets. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s parliamentary board also went into session on Friday night to shortlist its candidates.

Although some opposition parties have yet to announce their formal decision about contesting the elections, all signs point to the fact that they will participate “under protest” lest pro-Musharraf candidates should have a walkover.

An interesting scenario

In Sindh a new constellation is emerging as the old alliance might collapse and a new one might appear, depending on the outcome of the elections. The presence of Benazir Bhutto in the country and the expected return of Nawaz Sharif in a few days have charged up the political atmosphere, though any future power-sharing alliance would depend on the vote count.

There is a general perception that a hung parliament might emerge as a result of the elections, providing Gen Musharraf a comfort zone for the next five years. Some analysts believe that a contest between the PML-Q and PML-N after Mr Sharif’s return would be in the interest of the PPP.

The PPP has also done its spadework and the party chairperson had given the green signal to the final list of candidates. Ms Bhutto, who will file her nomination for a general seat from Larkana, is also listed as one of the nominees for the reserved seats for women in the National Assembly.

The list of candidates from Sindh, released by the Bilawal House media cell, includes the names of women’s seat nominees in the Sindh Assembly and minorities’ candidates for the NA and Sindh Assembly.

According to the list, 12 candidates have been announced for the reserved women’s seats in the NA and five for the minorities’ seats.

Following is the list of names for the National Assembly reserved seats for women: Benazir Bhutto, Dr Azra Fazal, Sherry Rehman, Nafisa Shah, Farah Naz Isphani, Rubina Qaimkhani, Fauzia Wahab, Shagufta Jumani, Mehreen Bhutto, Shazia Marri, Ruqayia Soomro and Surraiya Jatoi. Nafisa Shah, former nazim of Khairpur, is new in the list of reserved seat candidates. Similarly Shagufta Jumani, Shazia Marri and Mehreen Bhutto, who were MPAs in the outgoing Sindh Assembly, might be elevated to the NA because their names are included in the list of PA seats.

Candidates for the reserved minorities’ seats are: Shahbaz Bhatti, Ramesh Lal, Dr Mahesh Malani, Dr Khatumal Jeewan and Pehlajmal.

Twenty names have been listed for the reserved women’s seats of the Sindh Assembly. They are: Shagufta Jumani, Farah Naz Isphani, Shazia Marri, Farheen Mughal, Mehreen Bhutto, Humera Alwani, Farzana Baloch, Ruqayia Soomro, Shama Mithani, Raynaz Bozdar, Kulsoom Chandio, Shehla Raza, Mrs N.D. Khan, Fariha Haroon, Rukhsana Shah, Tauqeer Bhutto, Rashida Panwher, Aisha Khoso, Shamim Ara Panwher and Najma Saeed Chawla.

For the reserved minorities’ seats in the Sindh Assembly Dr Mohan Lal, Pitambar Sehwani, Lal Chand S/o Gangaram, Mukesh Kumar, Lal Chand Malhi, Salim Khokhar, Lal Chand Jagwani, Lal Chand Ukhrani and Ashok Jethmalani have been listed by the PPP.

PML-Q unprepared?

The PML-Q’s lack of preparedness for the elections could be gauged from the fact that the ruling party’s provincial parliamentary board for awarding tickets was set up only on Friday by its provincial president Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim.

Dr Rahim, who will be heading the board with Nadir Akmal Leghari, Mir Ghalib Domki, Mohammad Ali Malkani, Irfanullah Khan Marwat, Senator Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi and Bano Saghir Siddiqui as its members, has summoned its meeting on Saturday.

However, authentic sources in the party informed Dawn that the decisions for awarding tickets would be taken by the party high command in Islamabad. Dr Rahim, they said, had already left for the capital for this purpose yesterday, where he is also likely to consult President Musharraf before returning to Karachi to preside over Saturday’s meeting to make the formal announcement of the party’s candidates for general seats as well as for reserved seats of non-Muslims and women in the National Assembly and the Provincial Assembly.

The sources said seeking guidance from the “powers that be” is all the more necessary in view of the seat adjustments with other coalition partners of the last government.

Dawn tried contacting Sardar Nadir Akmal Leghari and Senator Ghaffar Qureshi to find out the details of the aspiring candidates but there was no response from their respective phones.

MMA’s session

The parliamentary board of the MMA’s Sindh chapter went into session after the Isha prayers on Friday night and till the filing of this report, the closed-door meeting was still in session.

According to party spokesman Mujahid Channa, the board meeting was presided over by Maulana Asadullah Bhutto, who is also the MMA’s Sindh chief.

Other members of the board are: Maulana Abdul Karim Abid of the JUI-F, Hashim Siddiqui advocate of JUP-Noorani, Afzal Sardar of the Jamiat Ahle Hadith, Nazir Abbas Naqvi of the Shia Ulema Alliance, Qari Saeed-ur-Rehman of the JUI-S and Mohammad Hussain Mehanti of the Jamaat-i-Islami.

Mr Channa said that the candidates’ suitability for each constituency is being thoroughly discussed. Besides, the names of women and non-Muslim candidates for the reserved seats were also being finalised.