ISLAMABAD: As political parties gear up for Senate elections scheduled for March, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has drawn severe criticism from both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for trying to win the loyalties of provincial assembly members in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in a bid to grab the lion’s share in the Upper House.
The PPP leadership’s discrete attempts to reach out to Punjab and K-P MPAs to secure support for its candidates in the Senate polls have triggered counter moves by the PML-N and the PTI who are now trying to woo PPP MPAs in Sindh, according to sources in the PML-N.
On Saturday, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari held a meeting of PPP’s K-P chapter in which a strategy for the Senate elections was discussed, said the sources privy to the matter.
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They said that the PPP was eyeing at members of the Qaumi Watan Party as well as dissident leaders of the PTI and the PML-N in K-P Assembly to win their support in favour of PPP candidates in the upper house polls.
Zardari is also scheduled to hold a meeting of the PPP’s Punjab chapter to win over the provincial lawmakers who have informally parted ways with the PML-N but have not announced their decisions publically.
To counter such moves, the PTI and the PML-N are both focusing on Karachi.
On Saturday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan landed in the Quaid’s city where he strongly criticised the PPP leadership and the Sindh government.
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Apparently, Khan landed in the metropolis to offer condolences to the families of Naqeebullah Mehsud and Intezar Ahmed, the two youths who were killed by the police.
But the sources said Khan also held meetings with PTI lawmakers from Sindh as well as members of the PPP, the PML-N and the PML-Functional to seek their support in the Senate elections.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also flew into Karachi apparently for inaugurating the Lyari Expressway.
But a senior leader of the PML-N’s Sindh chapter told The Express Tribune that the PM held meetings with party leaders in the province who were tasked with winning maximum support of provincial legislators for PML-N candidates in the Senate elections.
“This is a unique scenario… the PML-N and the PTI are at daggers drawn with each other but they have a shared goal now — to block the PPP’s way from securing majority in the Senate,” said the PML-N leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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Lately, reports have been doing the rounds that Zardari wants to get his sister Faryal Talpur elevated as Senate chairperson and intense lobbying is on in this regard.
PML-N’s K-P President Ameer Muqam minced no words in accusing the PPP of horse trading. “It may be Zardari’s wishful thinking to win maximum seats in Senate, but it will not happen. The PML-N is Pakistan’s largest political party and the Senate polls would be our show,” he told The Express Tribune.
“The PPP has no political support outside Sindh, so it relies on horse trading. This will not work,” he declared.
On the other hand, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah of the PPP has repeatedly denied that his party had any hand in the Balochistan Assembly debacle, saying the PML-N lost the provincial government due to its own policies which caused resentment among provincial legislators.
The PML-N leadership has also repeatedly accused Zardari of buying the loyalties of its leaders in Balochistan Assembly to topple the PML-N-led government in the province.
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Like the PML-N, the PTI too believes that Zardari and aides are pumping money into buying the loyalties of PTI MPAs, which is the reason why the PTI chairman is focusing on Sindh ahead of the Senate polls.
Last month, reports were doing the rounds that the PML-N and the PPP had reached an underhand deal whereby the PPP supported the legislation in the Senate on the delimitation of constituencies and in return received ‘concrete’ assurances from the PML-N to secure a few seats in the Senate from Punjab’s quota and some seats in the general elections from southern Punjab.
It is also believed that the PPP wanted the PML-N to agree to Faryal Talpur’s elevation as Senate chairperson. But Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N president, did not agree to it after which the PPP reportedly lobbied to send the PML-N government in Balochistan Assembly packing in order to bring a favourable set-up in the province to win seats in the Senate polls from Balochistan’s quota.
According to political sources, after the Balochistan Assembly debacle, the reported deal between the PML-N and the PPP on the Senate polls is unlikely to be materialised.
“There had been an informal understanding between the PML-N and the PPP that they would not act to destabilise the governments of one another,” said a close aide of Sharif, requesting anonymity.
“The PPP broke the accord, and now there are no concessions for the PPP in the Senate polls from Punjab’s quota or elsewhere,” added the aide.
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