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Presidential election: Smooth sailing for Alvi as opposition stands divided

Top Story

August 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The intra-opposition rift widened when the joint opposition late on Sunday night nominated JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman as their consensus candidate for the president of Pakistan, leaving the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) alone. The presidential elections are slated for September 4.

The opposition infighting paves the way for the election of PTI candidate Dr Arif Alvi by a huge margin. Fazlur Rehman, who was mediating between the PML-N and PPP to pick a joint candidate (of the opposition), would now be the joint candidate of PML-N, MMA, Balochistan National Party, National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP).

The nomination papers of Dr Arif Alvi, Fazlur Rehman and Aitzaz Ahsan were filed with the Islamabad High Court before 12 noon on Monday. PTI leaders Khurram Sher Zaman, Farrukh Habib and other leaders accompanied Dr. Arif Alvi during submission of nomination papers.

Fazlur Rehman’s nomination papers were filed by Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Raja Zafarul Haq. Ahsan Iqbal and Mushahidullah Khan also accompanied them.

PML-N leader Amir Muqam will be his covering candidate. Aitzaz was accompanied by Syed Khursheed Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Sherry Rehman and Syed Naveed Qamar when he reached the Islamabad High Court to submit his nomination papers.

Later, addressing a press conference here, MMA President Fazlur Rehman expressed the optimism that the PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari will revisit his decision, as nomination of two candidates by the opposition would divide votes.

“I will approach the PPP leadership to convince them to reconsider their decision,” he said. Asked whether the international community would accept him as the President of Pakistan, Fazlur Rehman said he did not join politics after consulting them.

Fazl told a questioner that he had no objection to Aitzaz’s candidature, as he was like his elder brother but the main opposition party — the PML-N — had objected to his candidature. The PML-N and other opposition parties’ leaders blame the PPP leadership for the rift in the ranks of grand opposition alliance.

PML-N leader and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal told newsmen that the PML-N was the largest opposition party and ahead in the numbers game but still it gave the sacrifice, offering the PPP to nominate an uncontroversial person.

He said the PPP leadership committed that they would give names of three candidates but they dug in their heels on Aitzaz Ahsan. He said efforts to bring a joint candidate of the opposition parties continued into late Sunday night but the issue could not be resolved.

Without naming Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan termed his attitude undemocratic. “The attitude of a person in the PPP who takes all party decisions is not democratic,” he said, adding the same attitude was a big jolt to the grand opposition alliance.

Mir Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party said the way the PPP leadership backed out had damaged the grand opposition alliance despite the fact that Shahbaz Sharif had offered them the Senate chairman’s seat. “We will request the PPP leadership and also ask Fazlur Rehman to convince Asif Ali Zardari to change his decision,” he said.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri regretted that despite continuous attempts, the PPP did not become a part of the opposition’s alliance for the presidential elections. “We will still request the PPP leadership not to become the reason for division in the opposition,” he said.

Awami National Party (ANP) leader Zahid Khan said his party will also support Fazlur Rehman.

The last date for the withdrawal of nomination papers is September 30 before 12 noon, while the final list will also be issued on the same date after scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Fazl met Zardari on Monday evening in a last ditch effort to convince him to field a joint opposition candidate, withdrawing Aitzaz Ahsan from the presidential race but he did not give him a positive reply and sought time till Tuesday (today) for consultation with the party.

Fazl, along with Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Akram Khan Durrani, met Zardari at the Zardari House. PPP leaders Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Farhatullah Babar and Syed Naveed Qamar attended the meeting.

Fazl sought Zardari’s support for himself as a joint candidate of the opposition and told him that if the opposition did not agree on fielding a joint candidate, then their votes will be divided, benefiting the ruling coalition.

He said since all the other opposition parties had agreed on his name, so the PPP should also withdraw the candidature of Aitzaz Ahsan in his favour. Sources said Zardari did not give a positive response and told Fazl that the matter would be decided in a high-level party meeting on Tuesday.

Talking to newsmen outside the Zardari House, PPPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said Zardari had listened to the stance of Fazlur Rehman. Babar said Zardari told Fazl that the PPP would take up the issue on Tuesday evening and a decision in this regard would be announced the same day.

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