Presidential poll: Opp divided over consensual candidate

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  • PPP refuses to budge on Aitzaz Ahsan’s candidacy for president as Zardari, Shah hopeful of PML-N’s support
  • PML-N in no mood to support Aitzaz Ahsan as deadline to submit nomination papers for election ends today

ISLAMABAD: The so-called grand opposition alliance has failed to agree on a joint nominee for the post of president as deadlock still persists between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) over Aitzaz Ahsan being the presidential candidate.

After a multi-party conference on Saturday in Murree, it was announced that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif will be announcing a joint nominee on Sunday; however, both parties refuse to budge from their stance even though Monday (today) is the last day to submit nomination papers for presidential poll.

The PML-N has strong reservations on the nomination of Aitzaz, citing his ‘personal attacks’ on PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in the past. However, its leader Pervez Rashid had said the party would accept Aitzaz’s nomination if he apologised to Nawaz in person.

PPP STICKS TO ITS STANCE:

The PPP is sticking to its choice despite PML-N’s objections, with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari saying that the party will maintain Aitzaz’s name as their nominee. “He will remain our nominee,” Zardari said, adding, “We will convince PML-N to accept Aitzaz Ahsan.”

Zardari’s comments came after PPP leader Khursheed Shah’s who had said that he was hopeful PML-N will make a positive decision after taking into consideration his party’s choice.

PML-N and PPP will have to resolve their differences and move forward together, he said, adding that PPP’s candidate for presidency is the candidate of all of Pakistan.

ANYONE BUT AITZAZ:

According to reports, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has directed his brother Shehbaz Sharif and other senior leaders to endorse the candidate proposed by the PPP other than Aitzaz.

The PPP leadership has been conveyed by the PML-N to consider the names of Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, Raza Rabbani and Farhatullah Babar, reports added.

Meanwhile, most of the opposition parties have also opposed Aitzaz’s name. While JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman has agreed to support PPP nominee Aitzaz, the MMA has shown its concerns.

It merits a mention here that during a recent meeting held to name a joint candidate for the election for prime minister, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif had suggested the name of Yousaf Raza Gilani for the slot of president which did not go down well with Zardari.

Speaking to reporters after the huddle of the opposition parties hosted by the PML-N in Murree on Saturday, senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had said that the formal announcement of the opposition’s candidate for the election will be made on Sunday.

According to Iqbal, a panel led by Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) chief Fazlur Rehman will shortlist three names by Sunday after which opposition parties will pick the final name for a presidential candidate. The panel will have one member each from PML-N and PPP, besides one neutral member, Fazlur Rehman.

Speaking to reporters after Ahsan Iqbal, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira had said that Aitzaz was still his party’s presidential candidate. However, PPP General Secretary Farhatullah Babar, while talking to a media outfit, said that Aitzaz Ahsan’s name for the president’s slot was not final.

LAST DAY TO SUBMIT NOMINATION PAPERS:

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has asked candidates to submit their nomination papers for the presidential election by August 27 (Monday).

Candidates can file their nomination papers with the presiding officers in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta till 12 noon.

The chief election commissioner will conduct scrutiny of the nomination papers in Islamabad on Wednesday at 10am.

Candidates will have until Thursday to withdraw their nomination papers after which the final list will be made public on the same day.

Polling for the presidential election will be held on September 4.

The president is elected by an electoral college comprising members of the Senate, National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies. Voting is held through a secret ballot.

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