–Joint Opp fields Fazlur Rehman, PPP submits papers for Aitzaz as deadline for submission of nominations for presidential poll ends
–Fazl hopes Zardari would reconsider Aitzaz’s candidature, support him as ‘joint’ candidate of Opp parties
ISLAMABAD: With the grand opposition alliance failing to reach consensus on a single nominee, the Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Aitzaz Ahsan and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s (MMA) Maulana Fazlur Rehman emerged as the two candidates challenging Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Dr Arif Alvi’s bid for the Presidency in the September 4 election.
The failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate is expected to provide a virtual walkover to Dr Alvi, however Fazlur Rehman on Monday expressed hope that PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari would reconsider his decision and have his party vote for him in the presidential election, despite the tension between the two main opposition parties — PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Soon after senior PPP leaders blamed the PML-N and the media for the growing fissures within the opposition ‘alliance’, and seemed all but resigned to not reaching a consensus over a presidential candidate, Rehman — the opposition’s presidential nominee — said he would try and convince Zardari to back him.
Talking to reporters after submitting his nomination papers, Fazl lamented that PPP’s refusal to vote for PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif in the prime minister’s elections resulted in Imran Khan becoming the prime minister. He also tried to downplay that the opposition alliance was facing discord, saying that the act of dividing up the opposition is not popular in the public.
The MMA president, who is also the chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), said that he and the PML-N both wanted the opposition’s candidate for the prime minister to be from PPP, adding that the PPP said that the PM candidate should be from the PML-N.
“When a consensus was reached, then the PPP decided not to vote, which dispersed the opposition, and turned our hope of going into the parliament and turning the tables into disappointment and despair,” he said.
“We would not want to give the same disappointment to our members once again,” he said, adding that a joint position on this issue should be presented.
The grand alliance of opposition parties had initially resolved to field a joint candidate for the country’s presidency. The PPP, however, stuck to Aitzaz Ahsan as its choice for the presidential nomination despite the PML-N’s objections. The rest of the opposition eventually fielded Rahman for the slot earlier on Monday.
AITZAZ REJECTS PML-N’S CHARGE:
Speaking to reporters after submitting his nomination papers, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan said the only objection raised against his candidature had been that the PPP did not consult other opposition parties before nominating him — a claim he termed false.
The senior lawyer said his name was agreed upon at an internal party meeting, but before it could be proposed to the alliance, the nomination started doing rounds on media as PPP’s ‘unilateral choice’.
He said the demand put forward by PML-N leader Pervez Rasheed that he (Ahsan) should apologise to Nawaz Sharif for his ‘unbecoming remarks’ regarding the ailment of Nawaz’s wife in exchange for the PML-N’s possible support was Rasheed’s “personal opinion”, and not the PML-N’s position.
Ahsan said he was surprised to hear such a demand coming from Rasheed, whom he respects as a “progressive intellectual”.
PML-N HOPES BETTER SENSE WILL PREVAIL IN PPP:
Addressing a joint press conference with other opposition leaders, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal criticised the PPP for failing to end the deadlock and expressed hope that the party will review its decision and prevent the opposition’s vote from splitting.
According to Iqbal, all parties had repeatedly requested the PPP leadership to suggest a panel of three names, one of whom would be nominated by the alliance through consensus. However, he claimed, the PPP leadership refused to nominate anyone else besides Ahsan.
“Aitzaz Ahsan was initially nominated without taking parties of the alliance into confidence,” Iqbal said, adding that the PML-N leadership and workers had serious concerns over his nomination.
Contradicting the PPP stalwart’s statement about Pervez Rasheed’s views being his own, Iqbal said the sentiments of PML-N workers had been hurt by the language used by Ahsan. Iqbal accused the PPP leader of “politicising” the illness of Kulsoom Nawaz.
Although the opposition alliance had decided to nominate Fazl for the election, Iqbal said they would appeal to the PPP to review its decision and support Fazlur Rehman for the cause of keeping the opposition vote united.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri thanked the opposition alliance for nominating Rehman for the post, while regretting the PPP’s lack of support to the opposition’s cause.
Haideri further said that as per the opposition’s calculations, the MMA president looked in a position to win the presidential polls.
Terming the PPP’s decision as “shocking”, National Party leader Hasil Khan Bizenjo lamented the failure of the grand alliance to put up a strong front on the matter.
“The way PPP backed out was shocking,” he said. “All the parties had asked PPP to propose another name.”
It was not possible for PML-N to vote for Aitzaz Ahsan, Bizenjo added.
After submitting his papers for the election, PTI’s Dr Alvi appeared optimistic that he will win the Sept 4 contest with a “clear majority”.
He said ideally all other candidates should have withdrawn in favour of the PTI nominee so that the federation’s representative could attain a significant majority.
If elected, Alvi said he will make use of the “numerous opportunities” within the constitutional ambit of the presidency to raise various issues of public interest.
RIFTS APPEAR IN OPPOSITION:
The grand alliance, which was formed by 11 opposition parties soon after the July 25 elections, has suffered blow upon blow in the weeks since its formation.
The first controversy had erupted following the PPP’s refusal to vote for Shehbaz Sharif as a joint opposition candidate for the Prime Minister’s Office despite it earlier agreeing on a formula that had authorised the PML-N to nominate its candidate for the PM’s election.
Later, the PPP ‘unilaterally’ nominated Ahsan as its candidate for the president. The PML-N leaders, who claimed that they had come to know about Ahsan’s nomination through the media, stated in categorical terms that Ahsan’s name could not be considered as the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision and also because of his ‘nasty remarks’ over the illness of Nawaz Sharif and his wife.
Candidates will have until Thursday, August 30 to withdraw their nomination papers, after which the final list will be made public on the same day.
Polling for the presidential election will be held on September 4.
The president is elected by an electoral college comprising members of the Senate, National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies. Voting is held through a secret ballot.