PML-N leader says his party, allies willing to support PPP’s Rabbani as chairman but Zardari says he’s not interested
PPP likely to nominate Mandviwala for top Senate slot as PML-N steps up efforts to woo MQM-P, independent senators
PTI reportedly agrees to support Mandviwala
ISLAMABAD: The competition for the top two slots of the Senate got tough on Wednesday after Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari turned down a proposal floated by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif to name outgoing Senate chairman Raza Rabbani as a joint candidate for the top slot.
The election for chairman and deputy chairman is scheduled for March 12, besides the oath-taking ceremony for the senators-elect.
“Thank you very much… but I don’t want this (to happen),” said Zardari at a press talk after his meeting with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman while responding to a question by a journalist over the nomination of Rabbani’s by Nawaz Sharif.
Zardari visited Fazl’s residence to discuss his proposals for the Senate leadership. At the press conference, both leaders held their cards close to their chest, with Fazl telling the media that he had conveyed Nawaz’s message to Zardari.
“Zardari has also floated some proposals. We have summoned our party’s meeting to discuss both the suggestions and decide on the matter soon,” the JUI-F chief said.
Zardari lured the Maulana, saying that he was expecting a positive response from the JUI-F leader as both parties were long-term allies. “We want this relationship to continue and Maulana sahib with us,” he said.
Due to Zardari’s apparent unhappiness with the outgoing chairman, Rabbani, the insiders say Saleem Mandviwala, Farooq H Naek and Sherry Rehman are the main contenders for the slot of Senate chairman; however, Sherry Rehman’s nomination was opposed by the PPP’s allies.
“Naek’s name is now being considered for the top slot,” the insiders claim, while according to some, Mandviwala is a favourite for the top slot.
PTI AGREES TO SUPPORT PPP?
In a surprising move, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which initially refused to support either the PPP or PML-N, reportedly entered into an agreement with the PPP to support Mandviwalla for the Senate chairmanship.
According to media reports, Mandviwalla is being tipped as PPP’s candidate for the post. While for the post of the deputy chairman, both parties have agreed to support Anwaarul Haq Kakar, an independent candidate who was elected from Balochistan in the recent Senate elections.
However, when Pakistan Today talked to PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi, he said that nothing was final yet as the PPP had not decided its candidate for the top slot.
Asked whether PTI would support a PPP nominee, Qureshi said, “We have asked the PPP to first come up with a candidate for the top slot. We will decide once the PPP comes up with a nominee,” he added.
PTI Secretary Information Fawad Chaudhry was of the view that his party would make utmost efforts to deprive the PML-N of the chairmanship. “We will try a consensus nominee from the opposition benches,” he said.
NAWAZ FLOATS RABBANI’S NAME:
Earlier in the day, a consultative meeting of the PML-N allies chaired by Nawaz Sharif reportedly agreed on the name of outgoing Senate chairman Raza Rabbani for the top post of the upper house if the PPP nominates him again.
Nawaz Sharif and PML-N allies— Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) head Mahmood Khan Achakzai and National Party (NP) President Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo— had gathered in Islamabad to discuss the nomination of chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, besides oath-taking of the senators-elect.
During the meeting, the allies advised Nawaz Sharif that since the ruling coalition lacked the required numbers in the Senate, it would be wise to name Raza Rabbani from the PPP who has been raising his voice for parliament’s supremacy.
Sources privy to details of the meeting disclosed that the allies advised Nawaz that naming Rabbani would wrong-foot Asif Zardari as Rabbani was defying his party chief’s orders since long.
Nawaz also criticised Zardari and supported the idea of reinstating PPP Senator Raza Rabbani for the chairmanship.
“I want to see a personality like Raza Rabbani as the Senate chairman and I support your nomination. I would drop my party’s candidature if Rabbani is nominated. But if you fail to convince Zardari, then you all would have to support the PML-N candidate,” Nawaz was quoted as saying.
The source said that Fazl was tasked to convince Zardari on Rabbani’s nomination who later in the evening invited Zardari at his residence for conveying an important message. But the idea was shot down by the old fox, refusing to fall prey to Nawaz’s move.
It merits mention that PML-N’s Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Saad Rafique and Mushahidullah Khan are already holding talks with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) for their support. Meanwhile, Ameer Muqam, PML-N’s KP chapter president, and Hasil Bizenjo have been asked to approach the senators from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan, respectively.
The allies assured Nawaz of their support and vowed to foil all conspiracies against democracy, the sources added.
After the meeting, Bizenjo told journalists that the three parties –NP, PML-N, PkMAP– combined had the required numbers of votes to elect a Senate chairman of their choice, but that they were yet to reach a unanimous decision on a candidate. He said a joint candidate would be announced by Friday.
When contacted whether the PML-N had won support from MQM and PML-F, PML-N’s Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said he was preoccupied with his meetings with the MQM and PML-F leaders. “I am in the middle of meetings with MQM and PML-F leaders. Will get back,” he said.
EVERYONE WANTS DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SLOT:
Meanwhile, an interesting situation has developed for both the PPP and PML-N as there are too many contenders for the slot of the deputy chairman.
While the JUI-F wants its leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hairderi to get re-elected, its strongest opponent, PTI has also made a similar demand from the PPP.
On the other hand, the independent group of six senators from Balochistan has also wished the same, and it could be a possibility that the PTI may support their demand if they decide to join the PTI.
“PTI wants its nominee to be elected as the deputy chairman. Though the PTI has not yet named anyone for the slot, there are indications that its Senator Shibli Faraz could be a strong candidate. But the PTI may withdraw its right for deputy chairman Senate in favour of the independent group if they tend to join the party,” a source in the party confided to Pakistan Today.