Pakistan : Presidential election Opposition divided but hopeful

ISLAMABAD: The grand opposition alliance’s hope to pitch a joint candidate against the ruling PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi in September 4 presidential election seems to have faded after PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari threw his full weight behind Aitzaz Ahsan.

JUI-F chief and MMA President Fazlur Rehman met the PPPP President Asif Ali Zardari at the Zardari House here on Monday, requesting him to withdraw Aitzaz from the race for presidential office.

Zardari had told Fazl that he will call a meeting of the party’s top brains on Tuesday and put his demand before them. During the consultative meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Zardari on the single-point agenda of discussing Fazl as the opposition’s consensus presidential candidate, the PPP leaders refused to make any compromise on the nomination of Aitzaz Ahsan.

Zardari told the party leaders that the PPP held Fazl in high esteem but it had to make a political decision on which there could be no compromise.

Zardari also conveyed to them that Bilawal Bhutto had declared Aitzaz Ahsan as their final candidate. Following the discussion, a delegation of PPP leaders met Fazl at his residence and conveyed to him Zardari’s massage.

The delegation comprised former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Senator Sherry Rehman, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Farhatullah Babar, Raza Rabbani and Syed Naveed Qamar. The meeting continued for more than one hour.

According to sources, Fazl insisted on his candidature, claiming that he had the support of MMA and five other political parties including the major opposition party PML-N that had more votes than the PPP.

The PPP leaders told him that it would be difficult for the party to withdraw its candidate. Later, talking to newsmen after the meeting, Fazl was hopeful of a positive outcome of their efforts to pick a joint candidate.

“We still have one night to decide. I still hope a way will be found out to field a joint candidate in the presidential election,” he said.

He said efforts were being made to reach a consensus on fielding a joint candidate. “I desire to see the opposition reaching a consensus decision,” he told reporters. Fazl said he had friendly and personal relations with Zardari and Aitzaz.

Pervez Ashraf said the PPP wanted Fazl to support their candidate but he said they still had one night to make a decision. “We are hopeful of a positive decision,” he said before leaving for the Zardari House to inform their top leadership about the outcome of meeting with Fazl.

Meanwhile, sources said in a separate meeting at the Zardari House, the PPP leaders also pondered over the future of opposition alliance after the presidential election. The PPP leaders noted that the party had its own manifesto and politics and the opposition parties could opt for similar stances on other issues. The meeting decided that the PPP would fully contest the by-elections and field candidates in every constituency. On the other hand, the other opposition parties have also taken a hard line on the issue and refused to withdraw Fazl.

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