ISLAMABAD .: Days after formation of a ‘grand alliance’ to take on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its allies, the opposition parties on Friday formed ‘Alliance for Free and fair Elections,’ but failed to name any candidate for the slots of prime minister, Punjab chief minister, speakers and deputy speakers of National and Punjab Assemblies.
Even though senior leaders in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz claim Shehbaz Sharif is the opposition’s ‘obvious’ choice for the election of premier, a huddle of the opposition parties that continued for several hours failed to name any candidate for the slots of the PM, Punjab CM as well as speakers and deputy speakers of the NA and PA.
Some opposition circles claim that the names of opposition candidates for the upcoming elections are expected to be announced today (Saturday) while others say that the names may be kept ‘secret’ till the PTI-led coalition announces its candidates for the respective slots.
Mainstream opposition forces including PML-N, Pakistan Peoples Party and smaller groups including Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Awami National Party, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and Qaumi Watan Party attended the hours-long huddle at the residence of outgoing Speaker NA Ayaz Sadiq.
This was the second consecutive meeting of the opposition leaders that ended without devising any concrete plan or a practicable strategy to deal with the political challenges posed by the rise of PTI in the recently held general elections.
Earlier on Thursday, opposition’s All Parties Conference announced to form a 16-member committee to carve out a plan for the upcoming elections of the premier, CM Punjab and related slots. On Friday, the panel set up ‘Alliance for Free and Fair Elections’; a united front of the opposition parties that would deal with the plan to protest against alleged poll-rigging in the general polls and field joint candidates for the crucial elections on the key assembly slots.
Reports suggest opposition parties have agreed that their joint candidate for premiership would belong to the PML-N and that the candidate for the slot of speaker NA would be from the PPP and that of deputy speaker to MMA. However, sources also claim that opposition parties are locked in serious differences that are hindering the possibility to forge effective cooperation against PTI.
A senior PML-N leader said that PPP wanted to field Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for the position of Leader of the Opposition in NA whereas PML-N wants to field its President Shehbaz. In a bid to exert its claim, the PML-N on Friday nominated Shehbaz as candidate for the Leader of the Opposition in NA. “Opposition’s candidatures for the slots of premier, CM Punjab and relevant portfolios have nothing more than a symbolic value. The real contest is within the opposition forces—for the position of the leader of the opposition in NA,” said a PML-N leader close to Shehbaz, requesting anonymity. In PA, the PML-N would be in comfortable position to have its leader of the opposition elevated, the source said adding that Khawaja Saad Rafique is a strong candidate for opposition leader in PA.
In addition, it is learnt, the PPP has also opposed holding protests on eve of the election of the PM. “They [PPP leaders] are very clear about it. They say protests should be held inside the Parliament and the provincial assemblies once the legislative houses are formed and they started functioning. Options, like protesting on the roads or protesting on the eve of the leader of the house in NA, are not something the PPP subscribes to,” said a well-placed political source.
Earlier on Monday, a meeting of senior leaders from PML-N, PPP, ANP and MMA decided to form ‘grand opposition alliance’ and to field joint candidates for the elections of PM and CM Punjab. The meeting was held in the backdrop of the MMA’s announcement to boycott the Parliament and provincial assemblies.
Reportedly, the leaders of PML-N, PPP and ANP conveyed to MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the opposition parties were unanimous against boycotting the Parliament and provincial assemblies—and that Fazl stood isolated on the matter after Jamate Islami, which is part of MMA, decided that its lawmakers-elect would take oath for election to Parliament and provincial assemblies. Following this, MMA has changed its stance and is set to be part of the legislative houses.