Wheeling and dealing for Senate top slots continues

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–Imran Khan says his support is for Balochistan, not Zardari

–Quddus Bizenjo says nothing is permanent in politics; will support PTI if PPP fails to deliver

ISLAMABAD: While political manoeuvring by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to steal the Senate top slots is in full swing, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said on Friday that his pledge for support to Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo was in fact a declaration of his support for the province of Balochistan, and not for the PPP or its chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

This comes in the wake of a string of meetings being held for the past few days between the top three major parties – PML-N, PPP and PTI – their allies and independents.

Interestingly, the PTI chairman also reiterated that his party won’t support the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the Senate polls. He also denied the impression of being anti-Nawaz, saying: “My campaign is not against Nawaz Sharif but corruption.”

Meanwhile, making matters even more interesting, Balochistan CM has stated that there is nothing permanent in politics, and that he and the independent senators whose support he enjoys will side with PTI if Asif Ali Zardari fails to deliver. He said that they would like to have Imran Khan’s support but all will be decided after consultation with his party and leaders.

The PPP, which has only 20 seats in the Senate, it appears, is ahead of its rival, given by the fact that the co-chairman, Zardari, claims of having enough seats to beat the PML-N in the Senate’s race for top slots. He had expressed these views after a late night meeting with the Balochistan CM Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and newly elected senators from the province on Thursday.

It is being reported that Salim Mandviwala will be the contender for the chairmanship. Buoyant Zardari had affirmed the fact, saying Inshallah, and adding this his party has enough strength to get him elected.

Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudus Bizenjo, who leads the independent faction of senators from the province, agreed to support the PPP chief in his quest for the top slot as he along with Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari huddled in a meeting on Friday night at Zardari House, Islamabad, to ponder over the names for the top Senate slots.

In another meeting, Zardari and Bilawal courted the independents from Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) who called on them to discuss the matters pertaining to the election of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman.

On the other hand, the PML-N de-facto chief, Nawaz Sharif, is also hell-bent on getting his candidates elected and will hold several meeting on Saturday for the very same purpose.

A meeting between Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman and Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad is underway. Though, the details of the meeting were not made public at the time when this report was filed, it was given that both leaders had put their heads together to discuss the Senate nominees and to counter Zardari’s strategy.

Nawaz Sharif will also meet the chief of PML-Functional (PML-F) on Saturday for the same, while he has also called a meeting of his allies— JUI-F’s Fazl, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) head Mahmood Khan Achakzai and National Party (NP) President Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo—to finalise the names for the Senate candidates.  However, this publication had reported on Thursday that the PML-N’s nominee for the top slot will be Hasil Bazinjo.

Similarly, the PML-N Quaid will also hold meetings with the FATA senators and CM Bizenjo.

Nawaz will also hold a meeting with the both factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) — PIB Group, led by Farooq Sattar and Bahadurabad group, led by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. Claiming to be an apparent victim of the PPP’s alleged horse-trading, it will be likely that Nawaz will be able to woo the party.

Just a day ahead of the meeting with the PML-N delegation, MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar, after a meeting with the PML-N’s Sindh governor, discouraged the Bahadurabad faction from acting unilaterally regarding its support to the PPP in the Senate chairmanship elections.

Addressing the media flanked by Zubair, Sattar stressed that the Bahadurabad group should take a mutual decision to support candidates for Senate top seats with the consultancy of the PIB faction.

The Sindh governor observed that the MQM-P is a major opposition. “I hope the party will support PML-N in the election for Senate chairmanship,” he said expectantly.

PTI:

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan said that PTI will not support PML-N or PPP in the election for the Senate chairmanship. However, the party wishes for the new Senate chairman and deputy chairman from Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), respectively.

Imran’s comment came after a late night Thursday separate meetings with the independent senators and CM Bizenjo in which he had authorised CM Bizenjo to deal on their behalf.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Friday, the PTI chief said that the core committee has agreed over the chairman from Balochistan and deputy chairman from FATA.” He reportedly said that he hoped the PPP would also support the PTI in this move.

In the same breath, the PIT chief asserted that he would not support the PML-N and PPP at any cost. Giving reasons for supporting the Balochistan and FATA lawmakers, he said the people of FATA have rendered tremendous sacrifices, while Balochistan, on the other hand, alongside FATA has been deprived for years; therefore, in a bid to acknowledge the sacrifices of these regions, the top slots of the Senate should go to the lawmakers belonging to these areas.

Moreover, both chief ministers of KP and Balochistan have also held a meeting at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House in Islamabad.

JI:

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), being undecided for at least a week, has finally come up with the name which it will be supporting. The JI chief, Sirajul Haq, said that party will support Raza Rabbani for the post of the chairmanship and urged all political parties to develop a consensus in this regard.

In a statement issued on Friday, he said that the re-election of Raza Rabbani as the chairman would bring to an end the present political crisis and state of uncertainty.

Siraj said that the differences with Raza Rabbani’s party— the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)— apart, the personal performance and the capability of Rabbani must be duly acknowledged.

Earlier, Nawaz too had agreed to support Rabbani for the top slot when he offered the PPP chief to field him as a joint candidate; however, Zardari had disregarded the offer in a rather rash manner.

BNP:

Balochistan National Party (BNP) leader Jahanzeb Jamaldeeni said that his party will support the PPP if it fields Raza Rabbani for the chairmanship, if not, then the party will be free to support whoever it pleases.

Elections for the seats of the chairman and deputy chairman will be held on March 12, when the senators-elect will also take their oaths.

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