The bad blood between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl appears to be blocking efforts of rapprochement between the two major opposition parties ahead of the crucial parliamentary vote to elect a new prime minister.
Resultantly, both groups hostile to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) fielded on Thursday separate candidates for the top slot vacated by the disqualification of former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi and Maulana Fazlur Rehman filed their nomination papers for the position as PML-N and JUI-F candidates, respectively, after overnight talks between the two parties to agree on one opposition contender headed towards failure.
The situation was contrary to what the PML-N promised to do on Wednesday – support any of the smaller opposition parties’ candidate for premiership.
Several rounds of overt and covert negotiations were held between leaders from the PML-N and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl. A PML-N delegation, led by Senate Opposition Leader Ishaq Dar, met with Fazl at least twice during the day on Thursday but remained short of evolving a consensus.
A top PML-N leader said the party would make further efforts to convince Fazl to withdraw his candidature this morning before the polling, scheduled for later this afternoon.
However, none of the parties were hopeful for a breakthrough.
“It is an unfortunate fact and we to admit that we were hasty on a golden opportunity to unite the divided opposition group. This was the best time,” said a PML-N member.
Asked why the major opposition party could not honor its words, and put forward its own candidate, the lawmaker said: “It is shortsightedness and stubbornness from both sides.”
A PML-N spokesperson said that Fazl should have waited for the major opposition party to approach him before announcing his candidature. “He took the decision in haste,” said Senator Mushahidullah Khan.
Responding to the allegation, a spokesperson for Fazl said that the JUI-F chief was a more suitable candidate than any of the PML-N contenders and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif must have accepted his nomination on part of the opposition.
The hardliners on both sides appeared to be suggesting that little headway was expected if both sides resume talks for a last minute face-saving deal today.
According to some rumoured reports, President Asif Ali Zardari had encouraged Fazl to block Nawaz’s attempts to unite the opposition – a scenario that could have had a symbolic impact in the run up to the next general elections.
However, these reports could not be verified from any quarter.
Difference of opinion within
Meanwhile, at the meeting of the central working committee, some PML-N members advised Nawaz to boycott the prime minister’s elections and demand an immediate announcement for fresh elections, instead.
However, according to officials in the PML-N, Nawaz insisted he did not want to leave the field open for the Pakistan Peoples Party and its allies.
Fazl asks MQM for support
During a telephonic conversation, Fazl asked Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain to support his candidature, according to a statement issued by the MQM.
The JUI-F chief emphasised that the political climate in the country had become one of hostility, which could lead to turmoil and eventually pave the way for undemocratic forces.
Fazl also apprised Hussain of his negotiations with leaders of the PML-N and PML-Q. He claimed the PML-N was willing to support his candidacy and he would emerge as a unanimous candidate.
Hussain assured Fazl that if all political parties, including the PPP, agreed on a consensus candidate, the MQM would support such an initiative.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.
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