–PTI chief in comfortable position to become premier as his party and allies have acquired simple majority in National Assembly with 175 seats
–PPP decides to abstain from voting in either candidate’s favour; PML-N warns of exacting revenge by replacing PPP’s Sherry Rehman as Senate Opp leader
ISLAMABAD: The stage is set for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s comfortable victory as the 22nd prime minister of the country, following the announcement of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that it will abstain from voting in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nominee for the post, Shehbaz Sharif.
With the loss of the PPP’s 54 seats, Shehbaz will now face an almost impossible task to be elected as prime minister. The PML-N has 81 seats in the National Assembly and it is yet unclear if the party will still be supported by the MMA (15 seats) and ANP (1 seat). Jamaat-e-Islami which is part of the MMA has announced that it will not vote in the election.
On the other hand, PTI has 151 seats and with the support of its allies, the total stands at 175 which is more than the required simple majority.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the PPP has decided to remain politically indifferent in the PM election.
According to sources, PPP members will attend the NA session, however, they will refrain from partaking in the election process. The PPP will not vote for either Shehbaz or Imran.
The fissures in the opposition’s ‘grand alliance’ erupted when the PPP refused to vote for the PML-N president as the opposition’s candidate for the leader of the house (prime minister) “due to the harsh language used by Shehbaz Sharif against the top PPP leadership in the past”. The rift has since widened and the effect has spilled over to the Upper House of the parliament where the PML-N has threatened to launch a no-confidence motion against incumbent Opposition Leader in Senate, Sherry Rehman of the PPP.
The PML-N has up till now contacted the National Party, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl in this regard.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the PPP confirmed that they will abstain from voting during the election of the next premier. The decision was taken by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at a meeting of the party, which was also attended by former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
The PPP had asked the PML-N to replace its candidate but the PML-N has so far remained adamant that Shehbaz will be their candidate.
Former NA opposition leader and PPP leader Khursheed Shah also confirmed that his party will not vote for the PML-N candidate.
Another PPP provincial lawmaker had earlier said that the party would only be sharing opposition benches with the PML-N and would not support the PML-N chief ministerial candidate either.
PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique claimed that the PPP had backtracked from their assurance regarding Shehbaz’s nomination on Asif Zardari’s orders.
“We don’t blame Asif Zardari for anything, we are aware of his troubles,” the former federal minister quipped.
PML-N Secretary Information Senator Mushahidullah Khan told Pakistan Today that if the PPP did not submit to the decisions taken by the alliance, then the PML-N will create trouble for the PPP in the Senate .
With the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also abstaining from voting, the grand opposition alliance will face a strengthening PTI at the NA where they are already in a majority.
The PTI and its allied parties have already tightened their grip over the election for the next prime minister as its nominees comfortably won elections of National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker on Wednesday.
Though the victory margin remained thin, it reflected that a united opposition may still prove to be a major challenge for the PTI.