LAHORE - Leaders of the ruling PPP and the PML-Quaid, who met at the residence of Mian Manzoor Wattoo, on Thursday agreed to field potential candidates on contentious seats irrespective of their party affiliation. “The main purpose behind the seat adjustment is to win the seat no matter which party a candidate belongs to. The election alliance between the PPP and the PML-Q means PML-N’s defeat in the coming polls,” Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira told the media after the meeting. He was accompanied by Kamil Ali Agha of the PML-Q and Haider Zaman Qureshi of the PPP.  There are around 70 provincial and over a dozen National Assembly seats in the Punjab, where the two parties would have to build consensus on joint candidates in the coming days. According to what Kaira told reporters at the end of the meeting, these constituencies would be kept open to ‘electables’ without taking into consideration which party gets the major share. This means the ‘electability’ of a candidate would be the sole criterion in respect of seats to be vacated by the turncoats in both the parties, as these constituencies would now be open to potential candidates from the either side. However, it would be a tough decision for their leaderships to reach some agreement on seats falling in Gujrat and Mandibahauddin, as the PML-Q is not willing to withdraw in favour of PPP candidates despite the fact that they won in the last elections. The two parties had earlier struck a deal according to which the winner and the runner-up of the last elections was to be their joint candidate in the upcoming electoral battles. But the problem arose over the seats held by members of the PML-Q forward bloc in the Punjab Assembly who would now be contesting on PML-N tickets. The two parties also faced a similar dilemma when over a dozen PPP legislators from the Punjab Assembly and a few from the National Assembly changed their loyalties to join the PML-N and the PTI. Kaira also informed that the two parties would continue to meet in the future as well to work out the modalities regarding the selection of joint candidates on the seats which have been made open for the two parties. Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, Haider Zaman Qureshi and Khurram Jehangir Wattoo took part in the meeting from the PPP, while Ch Pervaiz Elahi, Moonis Elahi, Kamil Ali Agha, Raja Basharat, Ch Zaheer and Ahmad Yar Hiraj led the PML-Q side in the negotiations. “Today, we have finalised candidates on provincial seats in some districts, and for the remaining ones, we would continue to meet in the days to come,” the minister said when asked to inform about the decisions the meeting took. About the joint election symbol, he said the issue would be settled at a later stage in a meeting of the parties’ top leaderships. He said all decisions regarding selection of candidates would be taken after consultations. The minister said the central leaders of both the parties would be apprised about the consultations, to take a final decision regarding seats adjustment and election symbols.Responding to a question about Supreme Court’s decision on Dr Qadri’s petition, the PPP leader assured that his party would fulfil all of the commitments made with the Minhajul Quran chief, despite the apex court verdict. Commenting on the decision, he said the country’s constitution allowed its citizen to keep dual nationality. “Dr Qadri is a Pakistani and not a foreigner,” he remarked, adding that he (Qadri) had acquired citizenship of another country as per the country’s constitution. But at the same time he also said that PPP respected the court decision on Qadri’ petition on dissolution of the ECP. “The coalition partners would meet Dr Qadri whenever he invites them”, he affirmed. Kaira also took the opportunity to grill Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Ch Nisar Ali Khan for their ‘hawkish’ politics. “Both Shahbaz Sharif and Ch Nisar should consult their party chief Mian Nawaz Sharif before making any statement”, he added.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 15-Feb-2013 here.