ISLAMABAD: The prospects for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Dr Arif Alvi of clinching the coveted post of the president brightened on Sunday after the grand opposition failed to reach a consensus on fielding a joint candidate from the platform of the Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections for the Sept 4 election.
Almost all the parties in the recently-formed alliance rejected Pakistan Peoples Party’s Aitzaz Ahsan as their joint candidate for the office of president. The PPP on the other refused to withdraw its nominee.
Hectic consultations between the opposition forces — including the PML-N, the PPP and smaller groups like the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and Awami National Party — bore no fruit as the PPP categorically conveyed its refusal to budge from its nomination.
Instead, the PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari put his weight behind Ahsan, sources in the PML-N told The Express Tribune. The deadlock prevailed till the filing of this report.
It merits mention here that the deadline for filing submissions for the presidential elections is today (Monday) at 12 (noon). In case the opposition fails to file any nomination, Ahsan will be the lone candidate from an opposition party against Alvi.
Sources in the PML-N said the party leadership has serious reservations over Ahsan’s candidature given that the PPP leader remained vocal in criticising the PML-N leadership, Sharif brothers in particular.
Since the surfacing of the Panamagate scandal and start of the subsequent court trial against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members, Ahsan remained highly critical of the Sharifs, recalls a senior PMl-N leader.
“He [Aitzaz Ahsan] would hardly spare an opportunity to target our party leadership. It would be embarrassing for our top leadership if they have to agree to the candidature of a leader like him as opposition’s joint candidate to contest the elections,” the source said.
The efforts of MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who attempted to play the role of a ‘bridge’ between the PML-N and the PPP in breaking the deadlock, could also not succeed.
Fazl tried to persuade PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif to agree to Ahsan’s candidature but the younger Sharif refused to accept this demand, conveying to the PPP leadership to consider the name of former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani or former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani. But Zardari is said to have refused to entertain the suggestion while standing by Ahsan’s nomination.
Sources said Zardari and his aides are facing serious corruption and money laundering cases in the courts and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and they may be intending to engage Ahsan for their legal defence which is the reported reason Zardari wants to accommodate Ahsan by nominating him to contest the presidential election.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the MMA chief shared his disappointment over differences in the opposition.
“This is unfortunate. The PML-N is the largest parliamentary party in the opposition and its leaders believe they have the right to give nomination to contest presidential elections. The PPP is not ready to show flexibility since it has already named its candidate.”
To a query, Maulana Fazl confirmed that he led a delegation to meet the PML-N chief, urging him to agree to Ahsan’s candidature but he refused. “But in politics, things kept changing — let’s see what happens. So far, things are very disappointing.”
A senior MMA leader, requesting anonymity, said the PML-N has conveyed to the PPP that it is ready to agree to the candidature of any other PPP leader other than Ahsan.
Khursheed Shah, on the other hand, spoke in favour of Ahsan. He said the PML-N did not oppose Ahsan’s nomination in the Multi-Party Conference.
“He is not only the PPP’s candidate but he is the candidate of the entire Pakistan. His matchless professional credentials make him a personality of international standing,” Shah said in a video message.
He urged the PML-N and other opposition parties to “draw lessons from the past and come together for the betterment of democracy. The PML-N leaders are very mature. They know the party has been passing through hot waters — together we should work to face the challenges”.
On Saturday, a MPC of the opposition parties convened in Murree on the call of the PML-N had failed to forge a consensus on naming the joint candidate for presidential election as the PPP stuck to Ahsan’s name.
After the MPC, senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal told the media that the opposition parties were working to agree on a joint candidate for the presidential election.
To his embarrassment, PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira interrupted Iqbal’s media talk to make it clear that Ahsan was still the PPP’s nominee for the president’s election.
“We have agreed in principle to field joint candidate for the office of president” Iqbal told reporters before being interrupted by Kaira.