ISLAMABAD - Replicating the Prime Minister’s elections last month, the opposition parties led by the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) stuck to their own candidates – Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Aitzaz Ahsan.

There were a series of meetings before the two sides announced there had been no headway to agree on a joint candidate.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who met PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari earlier in the day, claimed that he had tried to convince PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and other allies to support Aitzaz Ahsan as desired by Zardari but none of them agreed.

“The PML-N and other parties are not ready to change the candidate so we appeal to the PPP to withdraw their nominee,” he said after his meetings with the two sides.

PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said Maulana Fazlur Rehman had the support of more lawmakers than Aitzaz Ahsan so the PPP was morally bound to accept the cleric as the joint candidate of the opposition. “We will vote for Maulana Fazlur Rehman. He is our candidate,” he contended.

But the PPP claimed Aitzaz Ahsan was the best candidate so all the parties must vote for him. After a marathon PPP meeting – chaired by Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – party leader Farhatullah Babar said if the opposition parties wanted to remain united they must accept Aitzaz Ahsan as their candidate. “Aitzaz Ahsan will be our candidate. The other opposition parties should support him,” he said.

Babar said the PPP was still hopeful that PML-N will pull its candidate at the last minute to make it a one-on-one contest between the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf nominee Arif Alvi and Aitzaz Ahsan.

A delegation had met PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif after Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed ‘conditional willingness’ to withdraw from the presidential race.

The presidential election will take place today at the Parliament House in Islamabad. Voting will be held in the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies.

The President is elected indirectly through an electoral college, comprising the Senate, National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies.

Every member of the National Assembly has one vote while the four provincial assemblies are assigned an equal weight with the smallest, the Balochistan Assembly, serving as the base.

The division among the opposition parties has given an upper hand to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pick for the post of the President as he will now not even need more than 50 percent of the votes. The candidate with more votes than others will automatically win.

The PPP had nominated Alvi as its candidate hours after party chief Imran Khan was sworn in as the 22nd prime minister of the country on August 18.

A dentist by profession, 69-year-old Alvi is one of the founding members of PTI. He served as the party’s secretary general from 2006 to 2013.

Last month, the PPP had abstained from voting for Shehbaz Sharif for the office of Prime Minister but later some PPP lawmakers also recommended Sharif as the opposition leader.