Rift widens over choice of president for Pakistan’s opposition

Bilawal’s hard stance on choice for national president further deepens fissures in opposition

Islamabad: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s statement suggesting “three names” suitable for the president’s post has further deepened fissures in Pakistan’s opposition parties.

A breakthrough is unlikely in efforts to field a united Opposition candidate against PTI’s Arif Alvi in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for September 4.

On Tuesday, Bilawal while chairing an internal party meeting to consider a request by the opposition parties, particularly Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) with regard to sending three names instead of Aitzaz Ahsan, said he was suggesting three names, Aitzaz, Aitzaz and Aitzaz.

Bilawal’s latest statement it is being read as a message that the PPP is not going to budge an inch over its stand.

Two candidates could therefore be contesting from the opposition side for the office of the president of Pakistan — PPP’s Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and the opposition sans PPP’s Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman.

This would give Dr Arif Alvi of PTI a virtual walkover in the elections.

While commenting on Bhutto’s statement, the PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah accused PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari of forwarding Aitzaz Ahsan’s name at the request of a property tycoon.

“Asif Zardari, on the suggestion of a property tycoon, has opted for a solo fight deviating from other opposition parties’ path,” Sanaullah said in a statement.

According to PML-N sources, Zardari’s decision not to join other opposition parties in fielding a joint candidate gives a clear message to the powers that be that he is in no mood for confrontation and will indirectly support the PTI government.

In return, the sources said, he may be seeking some political concessions from the government as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is actively investigating a foreign accounts case implicating his close friends.

The JUI-F chief, who had been playing the role of mediator between the PML-N and the PPP, has the support of all component parties of the Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFE) except PPP.

A senior leader of the PPP Chaudhry Manzoor while commenting on PML-N and other opposition parties’ allegations of PPP indirectly supporting the government’s candidate, said PPP needs not being lectured about our compulsions. “We know about everyone’s compulsions,” he said recalling that Zardari and his sister had appeared before the FIA on Monday in a case that had been prepared in 2014-15 when the PML-N at the helm of affairs.

Manzoor also dispelled the impression that the opposition parties had formed any formal alliance.

“It is not an alliance like ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy) or the PNA (Pakistan National Alliance). Had there been such an alliance, there should have been a president and a general secretary. This is only an arrangement and not an alliance,” the PPP leader explained.


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