ISLAMABAD: PML-N leaders – and for that matter PPP leaders too – have so far been unable to bridge yawning rifts tearing apart the opposition parties which are pursuing separate agendas.
“We tried to unite the opposition, but this appears to be not possible. We will make attempts in future to unite the opposition n,” PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif had told the media a few days ago after opposition parties were unable to field a joint presidential candidates.
So far, the main opposition parties – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – have not made any overture about future political cooperation, discussions with leaders in both parties suggest.
“No such move is in the offing,” said a PML-N’s former federal minister, who spoke with this correspondent on condition of anonymity.
According to him, senior PML-N and PPP were facing allegations of corruption and money laundering.
“Everybody is too busy tackling their own problems, instead of pursuing political agendas,” he said.
Dismissing reports suggesting backdoor contacts between PPP and PML-N, he said that all such reports were untrue.
Before the July 25 general election, some elements in both parties had been in contact to discuss the possibility of electoral cooperation, including seat adjustments in certain southern southern Punjab constituencies.
No such effort could materialise after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initiated money laundering cases against PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur.
Separately, a corruption reference was filed against senior PPP leader and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
“PPP leaders are as much in trouble as PML-N leaders … Because of this, the prospects of political unity have been relegated to backburner. Independent of each other, leaders of both these parties are struggling to get out of this mess.”
A PPP senator, who also requested anonymity, blamed PML-N leaders for his party leaders’ apparent detachment from opposition’s activities.
Referring to the recently held 281st Senate session, he reminded that PPP senators had actively took part but Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N chose to keep a low profile.
“You could have hardly noticed the presence of the leader of the house. Barring a couple of senators from the N-League, there was hardly any participation from PML-N during the Senate session. On the other hand, the PPP’s representation in the upper house of parliament was far better. But without the backing of a major political party such as PML-N, we will not be able to make … our presence felt in Parliament,” the PPP veteran said.
Haq, who is also PML-N’s chairman, however, denied all such assertions.
“I attended all proceedings and shared my input on given issues – call-attention notices, question-hours, points-of-order and related businesses of the upper house. Throughout the session, PML-N senators participated in a lively manner. Even the debate on rigging in general election was initiated by a PML-N senator,” he said.
PML-N fully supported PPP senators’ call for setting up a parliamentary panel to probe these allegations, Haq said.
Rifts in the opposition parties became apparent during the presidential election held on September 4 in which PPP fielded Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate against PTI’s Alvi. PML-N did not field its candidate, but supported other opposition parties’ candidate Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Alvi secured 353 votes against Fazl’s 185 and Aitzaz’s 124 votes
Sources said that smaller political groups such as Maulana Fazl-led Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Awami National Party (ANP), Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) repeatedly approached leaders of both PML-N and PPP to launch a joint strategy against the government but did not succeed.
“It looks like the two major opposition parties are in no mood to give a tough time to the PTI. This amounts to allowing new governments at the Centre and provinces to settle down. A feeling abounds in political circles that state institutions are supporting the new government and no opposition party wants to offend the power centres,” said a source close to Maulana Fazl.