The Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have put their weight behind Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) for the opposition leader’s seat in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly.
The move has partially eased the uncertainty surrounding the position, which had fallen vacant following the appointment of Mehtab Khan Abbasi as the K-P governor.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and JUI-F are two of the largest opposition parties in the provincial assembly and both were eyeing the seat.
Following a meeting last month between PML-N lawmakers and the K-P governor, the party asked other opposition parties to wait so they could agree on a joint candidate. However, after a week-long wait, a JUI-F delegation met with the ANP leadership on Wednesday at Bacha Khan Markaz, where it was announced that JUI-F’s Lutfur Rehman would be backed as the leader of the opposition.
The JUI-F delegation comprised Shamsur Rehman Shamsi, Haji Ghulam Ali and Asif Iqbal Daudzai, who met ANP’s Bashir Matta, Mian Iftikhar and Sardar Babak. Both parties are already part of the tripartite alliance with PPP that was announced earlier this year to contest local bodies’ elections.
In August 2013, the same parties had also jointly contested by-elections across the province.
A PPP lawmaker, requesting anonymity, confirmed to The Express Tribune that they will back Lutfur Rehman for the position. The lawmaker said his party leadership is of the view that the opposition’s top slot belongs to the party holding a majority of the seats. However, he said a formal discussion is likely after a party meeting on May 6 or 7.
Reports had earlier emerged of a meeting between JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PPP’s provincial chief Khanzada Khan, where this arrangement was reportedly finalised.
A numbers game
PPP and ANP have five seats each in the provincial assembly, together with JUI-F’s 17, taking the collective figure to 27, out of a total 53 opposition members. According to the assembly rules, the party with the highest number of lawmakers is supposed to get the opposition leaders slot but support of other parties and lawmakers is considered necessary for smooth functioning of the house.
An independent opposition member from DI Khan, Javed Akbar Khan, is also likely to help Lutfur Rehman, who hails from the same district. JUI-F had a seat adjustment agreement with Akbar and the late provincial law minister Israrullah Khan Gandapur at the district level during last year’s general elections.
A dream left unfulfilled
PML-N seems to have been left isolated with its 15 members, while the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) has not yet hinted where its support will lie. PML-N lawmaker Aurangzeb Nalotha, however, said they were not aware of JUI-F’s ‘solo flight’ until the meeting between JUI-F and ANP, after which they contacted QWP and PPP. He said they were satisfied with the earlier decision of going with a joint candidate for the slot, but added that Lutfur Rehman had started bargaining on his own. Nalotha cautioned that if JUI-F acts in haste, it is likely to affect the unity of the opposition parties. The PML-N lawmaker added the opposition leadership was their right as it had fallen vacant after Abbasi took over as governor and should thus be replaced by a member of their party.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2014.
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