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PPP leader Khursheed Shah. — Photo by Online/File

ISLAMABAD, May 16: Tuesday’s election of PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah as chairman of a key parliamentary committee because of decisive vote in his favour by a JUI-F member has once again exposed rifts in the opposition and distrust between the JUI-F and the PML-N, the two major opposition parties.

The leaders of the two parties accused each other on Wednesday of playing the role of “friendly opposition” and the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said he would ask the speaker to ‘exclude’ the JUI-F from the opposition benches.

PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah became chairman of the 12-member Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Chief Election Commissioner having equal representation of the government and the opposition by securing seven votes against votes polled by Tehmina Daultana of the PML-N. Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI-F was not present in the meeting, but through a letter he declared his support for Mr Shah.

Angered by Maulana Haideri’s vote in favour of the ruling party, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan issued a statement accusing the JUI-F leadership of adopting ‘double standards’.

He regretted that Maulana Haideri had acquired the membership of the parliamentary committee on the opposition quota, but supported the government candidate.

“This is not for the first time that the JUI-F leadership has shown such double standards. If it continues with such a policy, we will ask the speaker to exclude those government people sitting on opposition benches to end this joke once for all,” he claimed.

The PML-N leader said those who always remained ready “for wheeling and dealing and political bargains” could not play the role of real opposition. He said it was surprising that at a time when rulers were playing a ‘dangerous game’ with the nation, some parties were weakening the opposition’s strength with their dealings with the government behind the scenes.

But Maulana Haideri told Dawn that neither Chaudhry Nisar nor the speaker had the powers to include or exclude any political party from opposition benches.

“Who is Chaudhry Nisar to ask the speaker to exclude us from the opposition benches?” he said when asked to comment on the opposition leader’s statement.

He alleged that the PML-N itself had been playing the role of ‘friendly opposition’ for the past four years and the party’s real face had already been exposed before the nation.

In reply to a question, Maulana Haideri said that he voted for Khursheed Shah because he had been approached by the government whereas no one from the PML-N bothered even to talk to him.

Moreover, Mr Haideri said that at the time of elections for the office of the Senate chairman and the deputy chairman in March, the PML-N did not listen to JUI-F’s plea that the opposition should contest elections despite knowing that it would not be able to secure any position. He alleged that PML-N’s Ishaq Dar, who was aspiring to become the leader of opposition, opposed the JUI-F’s proposal only to please the government and allowed it to get its candidates elected unopposed.

Maulana Haideri complained that during the 10 months he was the leader of opposition in Senate, PML-N members kept on thumping the desks and did not recognise the JUI-F’s right to the office. On the other hand, he said when the PML-N became the largest opposition party in Senate after the March polls, he not only vacated the office but also attended meetings convened by Mr Dar on different issues. He, however, alleged that the PML-N did not believe in consultations and wanted others to follow it blindly.

It may be recalled that after a meeting of opposition leaders at the residence of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on March 24, PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar announced that they had decided to adopt a “united stance” in the joint session of parliament discussing new terms of engagements with the US. However, the claim proved to be hollow only after a few days when both the JUI-F and the PML-N adopted differing lines during meetings of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS), particularly on the issue of the restoration of Nato supply routes.

The two parties also separately boycotted the PCNS meetings for some time on different issues. First, the PML-N unilaterally announced that its representatives would boycott the PCNS meetings to register their protest against the government’s decision to increase prices of oil and gas. The PML-N members skipped the PCNS meetings for three consecutive days, while Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other opposition members attended the meetings.

When the PML-N ended its boycott following a telephone call to party president Nawaz Sharif by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman suddenly announced that he would no more participate in PCNS proceedings.

The parties also have different stances on the issue of the prime minister’s conviction by the Supreme Court on contempt of court charges.

The PML-N, which has been demanding the prime minister’s resignation, boycotted the recently-concluded Senate session and disrupted proceedings in the National Assembly through noisy protests. But the JUI-F did not join the PML-N’s protests in either of the houses.