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August 26, 2018

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Presidential election: Opposition picks joint candidate today

MURREE: The All Parties Conference (APC) of the opposition parties on Saturday agreed to field a joint candidate for the president of Pakistan but failed to reach a consensus on the final name.

The presidential elections are scheduled for September 4. PML-N President and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif hosted the conference at his residence here.

The announcement of a joint candidate was deferred till Sunday (today).

Ahsan Iqbal, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Raja Zafarul Haq, Chaudhry Tanvir, Maryam Aurangzeb of PML-N and Syed Khursheed Shah, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Sherry Rehman, Farhatullah Babar (PPP) of PPP, JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, Liaquat Baloch of MMA, Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of ANP, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Mir Hasil Bizenjo of National Party and others attended the conference.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — the two main opposition parties — stuck to their guns, as the former expressed reservations about the nomination of Aitzaz Ahsan, while the PPP leaders were reluctant to drop Aitzaz and sought some time for consultation with the top leadership.

Sources said the PML-N wanted to name Abdul Qadir Baloch as its candidate for the president.

Sources in the opposition parties were positive that a consensus would be reached, as there would be give and take between the parties for the offices of president and Senate chairman.

The sources said that the PML-N had agreed to accept the candidate for presidential election from the PPP.

The conference, however, delayed the agenda of Senate chairman’s replacement until the next meeting.

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal told newsmen after the meeting that the opposition parties had agreed to bring a joint candidate. However, he said the PPP leaders had sought some time to consult with their top leadership.

The meeting constituted a panel led by MMA President Fazlur Rehman to give three names of the candidates.

The panel will also include one member each from the PML-N, PPP and a third opposition party.

The final candidate will picked from the three names forwarded by the panel.

"The name of the final joint candidate will be announced by Shahbaz Sharif tomorrow (Sunday)," Ahsan Iqbal said.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will receive nomination papers from candidates by 12 noon on Monday (tomorrow).

He said the opposition leaders had also discussed the issue of threats being given to the leaders of opposition parties and urged the government to make proper security arrangements for politicians.

Ahsan said the opposition parties supported the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis but at the same time observed that the ECP was taking the decision in a haste.

"There are chances that the online voting system might be hacked," he said.

He said the opposition leaders had also discussed how to avoid division that was witnessed during the National Assembly's inaugural session.

He said the leaders also condemned the alleged victimisation of opposition leaders with particular reference to depriving Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz of legal rights and placing their names on the ECL.

The PPP leaders regretted the statement of PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid that his party might consider supporting Aitzaz Ahsan if he visited the Adiala Jail and apologised to Nawaz Sharif for his objectionable remarks.

Statistics show that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is in a better position to get Dr. Arif Alvi elected as the president.

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