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August 14, 2018

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Election for PM: PPP unlikely to vote for Shahbaz

LAHORE: The alliance between PML-N and PPP in the form of Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFE) is virtually over as the PPP appears to be backing out from voting for Shahbaz Sharif in the parliamentary elections for the country’s premiership.

The two parties had come together after alleging mass engineering and rigging in the election results. The alliance comprises PML-N, PPP, MMA, ANP and others.

After multiple meetings, both had agreed that they would field joint candidates for the prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker. After exhaustive discussions and meetings, it was agreed that Shahbaz would be the candidate for premiership, Khursheed Shah for speaker and Maulana Asad-ur-Rehman (son of Fazl-ur-Rehman) of MMA for deputy speaker.

Sources revealed that even at the time of drafting the post-APC joint declaration, PPP’s Sherry Rehman had objected to writing the words “Joint Opposition” in the final text and had them change to “Joint Strategy” instead. This had raised many a brow in the PML-N ranks.

After the PAFFE had figured out that they could not make the government in the Centre, it was proposed in the PML-N CWC meeting that Shahbaz should not be fielded to lose against Imran in the elections for prime minister as it would be a negative start to his first time national parliament membership. However, it was decided that to express full commitment to the objectives of the alliance, the PML-N would not go back on its word. Later, Shahbaz was formally announced as the candidate.

However, the sources say certain matters remained undecided in the follow-up meetings between the PPP and PML-N. In an exchange between the parties, on Monday, it was communicated by the PPP to the PML-N that the party had internal disagreements and certain issues which restrained them from voting for Shahbaz as the premiership candidate, they added.

While certain quarters in the PML-N believe that the PPP has backtracked from its commitments in a scenario involving many factors including NAB inquiries, the PPP leadership has expressed no such notion. Talking about the issue, Sherry, who is the PPP spokesperson, said the party had communicated its concerns and reservations over the PML-N candidate and it would be difficult to comment without any further development on the issue whether the PPP would vote for Shahbaz or not.

When contacted, PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb did not confirm or deny if the PPP had refused to vote for Shahbaz. She, however, said the PML-N deemed the election engineering as the most important issue that needed to be addressed on an emergency basis and, therefore, it would fulfil its part of the commitment agreed in the APCs and the meetings held in this regard.

This would mean that the PML-N would go ahead and vote for Khursheed. However, it is likely that the PPP would not vote for Shahbaz, based on the development to this day. Later, the PML-N Punjab leadership, in a press conference of at its Model Town Secretariat, announced that Hamza Shahbaz would be the candidate for the Punjab chief minister with Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar being the nominee for the provincial assembly speaker.

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