ISLAMABAD: Efforts to regroup the opposition against the ruling coalition for the September 4 presidential elections, have failed as two candidates – Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Aitzaz Ahsan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman – on Monday separately filed nominations from the opposition side to compete against PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi.
Fazl made yet another failed attempt to woo the PPP to withdraw its candidate later in the evening. He met former president Asif Ali Zardari and requested him to withdraw PPP’s candidate, which the latter declined.
Division in the opposition ranks would benefit the PTI, which could have faced tough competition had the opposition been united. Ahsan only appears to have the backing of his own party, while Fazl is the joint candidate of the MMA, PML-N, ANP, and PkMAP. Both groups accuse each other of fomenting the divide.
Addressing the media after the submission of nomination papers, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Ahsan Iqbal pledged his party’s support for the JUI-F chief.
Aitzaz Ahsan, speaking to the media, said PTI will benefit in the presidential elections if there are two candidates of the opposition. “The PPP did not announce the name before consulting other parties,” Ahsan said, adding that he wasn’t present in the huddle where his name was proposed.
He added that PML-N’s Pervaiz Rasheed had raised objections to his candidature but the party said that those are Rasheed’s personal views and don’t reflect party policy. The presidential nominee added that he respects Rasheed but felt his demand was ‘feudalistic’. Rasheed had earlier remarked that the PML-N will support Ahsan if he apologises to former premier Nawaz Sharif.
A few days after the July 25 general elections, opposition parties had a huddle at the residence of former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq and decided to work together inside and outside parliament. They decided to jointly contest elections for the offices of speaker, deputy speaker and leader of the house against PTI and its allies.
It was decided that candidate for speaker will be from PPP, deputy speaker from MMA, and leader of house from PML-N. They contested the elections for speaker and deputy speaker without any hitch, but the PPP did not agree to PML-N nominating party chief Shehbaz Sharif for leader of the house. Instead, it abstained from the vote and Imran Khan was easily elected prime minister.
Last week, PPP nominated Ahsan for president of Pakistan and sought support from the PML-N and other opposition groups.
PML-N, the second largest party in parliament, expressed reservations over the nomination, calling it a unilateral decision.
In an attempt to sort out their differences, PML-N called a meeting of opposition parties last Saturday. The huddle failed to reach consensus to pitch a mutual candidate.
Several contacts between different opposition groups were held on Sunday and different options were considered, without any tangible results.
PPP opposed Fazl’s nomination while others moved to nominate him as the opposition’s candidate. Interestingly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) floated deposed premier Yousuf Raza Gillani’s name for the slot as well.
Monday noon was the deadline for submission of nominations and Ahsan and Fazl filed their separate nominations.
Sources in PPP said, their party would go to the presidential polls with Ahsan as their candidate and there were no chances of withdrawal of his candidature.
The five-year term of President Mamnoon Hussain will expire on September 9. Under the constitution, the election of the next president should be held at least a month before the term completes. Since the electoral college for the election of the president – which is both houses of parliament and the four provincial assemblies – was not complete at the time, the election had to be delayed.
Scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates will be held on August 29 and any of the contestants can withdraw their candidature before the list of candidates is finalised on August 30.
Alvi takes swipe at opposition
PTI’s nominee for president Dr.Arif Alvi said on Monday that he will win the election with a majority and urged the opposition to withdraw candidate in his favour. Talking to media after submitting his nomination papers, Alvi pointed out that candidates of other parties could have shown a positive gesture by withdrawing in favour of the PTI candidate, but they did not. He said that if elected, he would be the second president of Pakistan from Karachi and it would be an honour for Sindh province as well. “But I am Pakistani and love my country and will prove it practically.” He stressed that after coming into power he would focus on major issues such as water, education, health, and most importantly tree plantation, adding the previous governments did nothing to resolve the issues of the people. He said the time has come for all parties to concentrate on matters important for the country and the masses.
With additional input from APP