He survived a military coup, spent time at the notorious Attock Fort, lived in exile in Saudi Arabia and returned home to defy a dictator. He waited 13 years and eight months for this day. Nawaz Sharif is all set to create history today.
With his election an almost certainty on Wednesday, Nawaz is to become the first politician in the country’s parliamentary history to make it to the office of prime minister for a third time. In mathematics, the figure of three represents the first Fermat’s prime and also the first lucky prime.
Though his party — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — has enough numerical strength in the lower house of parliament to elect its chief to the coveted office of Leader of the House, efforts are under way to muster as many votes as possible.
Nawaz is up against two candidates: Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Makhdoom Amin Fahim of Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP). But the combined numerical strength of the two parties is less than that of PML-N.
Until the penultimate day, the PML-N expectation was that the PPP would withdraw its candidate, Amin Fahim, in favour of Nawaz as a ‘goodwill gesture’. And for this purpose, a high-level PML-N delegation, led by Senator Ishaq Dar, met with PPP politicians in Islamabad. Negotiations between the two sides continued till late in the night.
The PPP was noncommittal. But, sources say, the party could possibly pull out of the race at the eleventh hour. In the election for the slots of speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, the PPP withdrew its nominees —Nawab Yousuf Talpur and Ghulam Rasool Koreja — hours before the balloting. The recent statements of President Asif Ali Zardari regarding unanimous election of the new leader of the house give further credence to this possibility.
If the PPP withdraws from the race, it’ll automatically become a contest between Nawaz Sharif and his former close aide Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, who is now president of Imran Khan’s PTI.
Another major opposition group, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, has already offered its ‘unconditional support’ to Nawaz Sharif. On Tuesday, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman also promised to vote for Nawaz as a ‘goodwill gesture’.
“Ideologically, we are closer to the PML-N. And as a goodwill gesture we have decided to support the PML-N and will vote for Nawaz Sharif,” said Maulana Fazlur Rehman after a meeting with a PML-N delegation, comprising Ahsan Iqbal, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Khwaja Saad Rafique. JUI-F lawmakers had also voted for PML-N’s candidates in Monday’s election of National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker.
The National Assembly comprises 342 members but seven seats are still vacant where either election was terminated, results withheld or re-polling ordered. While some lawmakers-elect, including Maulana Fazl and Imran Khan, have yet to take oath.
Similarly, some members have won the May 11 elections from more than one seat: Maulana Fazl and Imran Khan have won from three seats, while Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and Jamshed Ahmed Dasti have won from two seats.
Every member would count as one vote, therefore, the number of members who would participate in Wednesday’s election for the leader of the house would be around 330. Unlike the speaker and deputy speaker elections, this election will not be through secret balloting.
Apart from its allies – Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional – lawmakers from other smaller groups are also likely to vote for Nawaz. A senior PML-N official told The Express Tribune that Awami National Party’s lone member, Amir Haider Khan Hoti “will vote for Nawaz because he also voted for the PML-N candidates [in the speaker and deputy speaker election] on Monday.”
He added that Pakistan Muslim League-Zia leader Ejazul Haq will also vote for Nawaz. However, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed is in alliance with the PTI and will vote for Hashmi.
Similarly, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi will also vote against Nawaz. Elahi chose to abstain from Monday’s election for speaker and deputy speaker.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2013.