The opposition inched closer on Tuesday to its dream of putting up a formidable challenge to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and National People’s Party formally launched an electoral alliance for the upcoming elections.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif arrived in Karachi, with his top leadership, on the invitation of PML-F leader Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi and made it a point to tell the media that an easy path to win seats in the port city would not be paved just for “one party”.
“The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s decision to pull out of the PPP-led coalition after four years and 11 months is nothing but an attempt to steal our mandate,” Nawaz said, after holding talks with the PML-F leadership. “They want to form an interim government. We have serious reservations and we will approach the Election Commission and the courts to look into this matter,” he added.
Earlier, the PML-N chief told reporters at Karachi airport that voters would no longer tolerate the poor law and order and mismanagement of national assets. “People have realised what is happening with them. They know what kind of a political game is being played in Sindh.”
Party leaders were reluctant to divulge details of the two-hour long meeting between the PML leaders, which was held at Pir Pagara’s residence. Sources, however, said the new electoral alliance would probably contest the polls using same election symbol. The parties have formally agreed to back each other’s candidates across the country to weaken the vote-bank of the PPP.
Karachi has remained a bone of contention and it is widely believed that opposition parties have accepted the MQM’s dominance in the city. However, the PML-N has decided to contact all opposition parties to break that perception.
“We are focusing on seven provincial assembly seats, including Mehmoodabad and Kiamari,” said a PML-N leader. “In the past, league politicians have shown they can win substantial votes in the city.”
Nawaz said the meeting decided to push for the removal of “politically appointed” provincial governors. “The restoration of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 1979 is a victory for the masses.”
The meeting also stressed that the election commission should ensure the code of conduct during polls to avoid manipulation, he said.
PML-F chief Pir Pagara said that the PPP was facing crises across the country. “That is one reason it has set eyes on Sindh. The way its coalition partner [MQM] has come into the opposition proves their intention of manipulating election results.”
He said it was his father’s dream to form a grand alliance of all factions of the Pakistan Muslim League. “We are working towards that goal.”
‘Karachi, a top priority’
Earlier in the day, the PML-N chief announced that results would not be acceptable in Karachi if the Election Commission of Pakistan failed to ensure free and fair elections. Nawaz said he has asked Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim to give “special attention” to Karachi; otherwise, rigged results would mar the entire electoral process.
The PML-N chief was talking to the media, along with Jamaat-e-Islami Sindh chief Dr Merajul Huda Siddiqui, after visiting the house of deceased JI leader Prof Ghafoor Ahmad to pay his condolences.
“As far as Karachi is concerned, there is a consensus between the PML-N, JI and other parties in opposition that the election would be contested jointly,” said Nawaz. On the occasion, JI’s Dr Siddiqui called on all “positive and principled” political forces to join hands for, what he termed, a “much required change.”
Prior to appearing before the media, leaders of both parties agreed in a meeting to press the CEC on the issue of Karachi’s delimitation, voters’ verification and deployment of army, a senior PML-N official told The Express Tribune.
“A PML-N high-powered delegation will meet the election commissioner on February 27, while Nawaz has directed Chaudhry Nisar and other leaders to keep the Karachi issue a top priority,” said the official.
(With additional reporting by Noman Ahmed in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2013.
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