Amid a flurry of frenzied politicking ahead of the Senate elections, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) on Saturday decided to cast its lot with the opposition in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) tried to woo the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) in Sindh.
Saturday witnessed several breakthrough political contacts, days after the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) leadership used its political influence in Punjab that paved the way for all the senators from the province returning unopposed.
The political acumen of the Chaudhrys of Gajrat was mentioned with praises during the meeting between a Pakistan Peoples Party delegation and the MQM-P – and ally of the Pakistan Tehreeke-Insaf (PTI) at the centre – in Karachi.
In the meeting at the MQM-P’s headquarters, the PPP offered the MQM-P two Senate seats from Sindh and in return it sought votes for Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate from Islamabad.
However, a major political breakthrough was achieved in Peshawar, where the provincial leaders of the PDM parties plus the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) huddled together. They agreed to join ranks and decided to field five joint opposition candidates.
As per the agreement, the PML-Nawaz’ Abbas Afridi, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Maulana Ataur Rehman and the Awami National Party’s (ANP) Haji Hidayatullah Khan will stand for the general seats in the March 3 election.
The PPP has been given a technocrat seat, for which Farhatullah Babar will be the joint opposition candidate, while Inayat Begum of the JI will be candidate for women’s seats, according to the announcement after the meeting.
Under the agreement, all additional candidates of the opposition parties would retire from the contest on March 3.
The opposition parties also decided to contact three independents, Ehtesham Javed Akbar, Faisal Zaman and Mir Kalam Wazir.
The PPP received another boost in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as Senator Shamim Afridi and provincial assembly member Amjad Afridi announced their joining of the PPP during a rally addressed by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday.
Welcoming both the lawmakers to the party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in his address to the public gathering in Kohat that the opposition would send the ruling PTI packing after the Senate elections, next week.
He claimed that people from all over the country would join them in the long march on Islamabad on March 26. “[The opposition will] send the ‘puppet’ prime minister home and establish a people’s government to serve the people of Pakistan,” Bilawal added.
In Karachi, Sindh Minister Nasir Shah told reporters after the talks with the MQM-P that the PPP was prepared to get MQM candidates elected from Sindh without contest in return for government ally’s votes for Gilani in the National Assembly.
“We will support the MQM on two seats and the MQM should support our candidates, including Yusuf Raza Gilani on a seat from the federal capital,” Nazir Shah, the provincial minister for local government, said.
“The PTI was scared in Punjab, as it feared that many members would not vote for their own candidates [but] serious talks were held in Punjab and the PML-Q played a role in this matter,” he added.
“The MQM has spoken about the Punjab model, we are ready for it,” he continued. “The MQM can win on one general and one women’s seats unopposed. But it takes two to clap. In return, the MQM will have to vote for Gilani at the Centre.”
MQM-P leader Aamir Khan said the decision in this regard would be taken by the party’s coordination committee.
Another party leader Faisal Sabzwari said the discussion on the Senate elections had nothing to do with the ruling coalition. “The PPP delegation was requested that the Punjab Assembly has given a very good model. Wouldn’t it be good if a similar arrangement was made in Sindh as well?” Sabzwari said.
This year, a total of 48 senators – 12 each from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh, and two from Islamabad – will be elected on March 3.
Voting for the would be held in the provincial assemblies for the provincial seats. The voting for two senators from Islamabad would be held in the National Assembly, where the most high profile contest of the current election is taking place between Gilani and the finance minister Dr Hafeez Shaikh.
The opposition leaderships have struck a ‘super-confident’ posture that Gilani would defeat Shaikh, despite the majority of the ruling coalition, including the MQM-P and the PML-Q.
“Success of Yusuf Raza Gilani will add to the prestige of the Senate and democracy will succeed,” Bilawal told the rally in Kohat. He warned that “If Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh succeeded, it would “lead to increasing inflation …”
Bilawal’s comments were echoed by PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz during her media talk at her residence in Jati Umra. She even claimed that the PTI’s own members would not vote for the party candidate in the Senate election.
“Even his [Prime Minister Imran Khan] own party members will not support him in the Senate elections and are not ready to vote, because Imran Khan’s performance has shrunk his vote bank,” Maryam charged.
(WITH INPUT FROM OUR PESHAWAR & LAHORE CORRESPONDENTS)