ISLAMABAD - Keeping in view the numerical strength of the PML-N and its allies in the National Assembly, Nawaz Sharif would face no difficulty in becoming the prime minister for a record third time, but the party’s dream to see him as the consensus leader of the house could not materialise as the major opposition parties have declined to withdraw their candidates in his favour.

The nomination papers of Nawaz Sharif were filed on his behalf in the National Assembly Secretariat by Senator Ishaq Dar, Kh Asif, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and other senior party leaders.

Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai also proposed Nawaz for the slot in one of the seven nomination papers.

Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians chief Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf President Makhdoom Javaid Hashmi also filed their nomination papers for the slot, which were also cleared for the contest.

PML-N leaders approached both the PTI and the PPP-Parliamentarians, but failed to convince them to withdraw their candidates to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif to become consensus leader of the house.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has, however, announced to support Nawaz Sharif. Similarly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain has also announced supporting Nawaz for the slot of the leader of the house in the National Assembly.

It is interesting that the MQM had fielded their candidates for the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker, but the PPP-P had extended support to the PML-N candidates for both the slots. After the parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday, PPP-P President Makhdoom Amin Fahim announced they would not withdraw papers for the PM slot though.

To a question, he said they had extended support to the PML-N candidates for the slots of speaker and deputy speaker as they wanted consensus candidates, but the other parties had not cooperated with the majority party and both PTI and MQM fielded their candidates.

As things stand, Nawaz, after his election as leader of the house in the National Assembly, would be administered oath as the next prime minister of the country at a ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr the same evening (Wednesday) at around 5pm for which the Presidency has issued invitation cards to parliamentarians, ambassadors, judges of the superior judiciary, services’ chiefs and other dignitaries. The family members of Nawaz Sharif would also attend the ceremony.

Sources in the PML-N said the party leaders were contacting smaller groups and independents to gain maximum strength in the election of the leader of the house. Sources said though the party would not be able to touch 258 votes, which its candidates secured for the slots of speaker and deputy speaker on Monday, the party wanted to have two-thirds majority in Nawaz’s favour.

At the time of going to press late Tuesday night, PPP-P and PTI leaders were in no mood to withdraw from the competition, frustrating the dream of Nawaz Sharif to become the consensus leader of the House like Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Meanwhile, the religio-political party (JUI-F) which is likely to sit on treasury benches at the Centre has announced its unconditional support to the PML-N candidate in the election for the slot of leader of the house being held today (Wednesday).

“JUI-F will support PML-N and I have conveyed my decision to its delegation which sought my party’s support for Nawaz Sharif as leader of the House in the National Assembly (NA),” said JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman, talking to newsmen.

To a question about joining the treasury benches, Maulana once again did not disclose his final decision and came up with the reply that the issue would be taken up after Nawaz Sharif was sworn in.

Fazl reiterated that dialogue with Taliban was a serious issue, but the attitude of the establishment was not satisfactory in this regard. Peace would not be possible without dialogue, he added.

When asked about the power outages, the JUI-F chief replied there was need for long-term and short-term projects to solve the problem.

It is relevant to mention here that a delegation, headed by PML-N central leader Ahsan Iqbal, met the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam leadership to discuss the election of the leader of the house, to be held today (Wednesday), and other issues.

Earlier, JUI-F, after a detailed discussion at its parliamentary board meeting, decided to support PML-N at this juncture. The meeting was attended by Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, Senator Haji Ghulam Ali, Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman and other party members.

A couple of weeks back, PML-N formally invited JUI-F to jointly form government at the Centre. JUI-F, ostensibly to exploit the situation, did not accept the offer abruptly and formed a committee under Abdul Ghafor Haideri to finalise terms and conditions for supporting the future government.

Sources said the religio-political party, through its terms and conditions, had made it clear that it would not give a nod to the ruling party on every issue.

They said JUI-F was also interested in taking Ministry of Housing and Works and chairmanship of Kashmir Committee.  However, the JUI-F spokesman clearly dispelled the impression.

Monitoring Desk adds: National Watan Party (NWP) on Tuesday also announced to support PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif for the prime minister’s slot, a private TV channel reported.

The announcement was made by NWP Chief Aftah Sherpao after a meeting with senior PML-N leaders, Chaudhry Nisar and Ishaq Dar. Sherpao whose party is a partner in the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government said he would continue to support Nawaz Sharif at the Center in the national interest.

Online adds: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has refused to withdraw its candidate in support of PML-N in the election for slot of Prime Minister.

Talking to media after the Parliamentary meeting of PPP Makhdoom Amin Fahim said that PPP would field its candidate for the Prime Minister against Nawaz Sharif in contest.

He said PPP did not want to make the offices of NA Speaker and Deputy Speaker controversial so they did not brought their candidates for these respective offices.

For the election of premiership, PML-N has made contact with PPP for support but PPP has decided to contest against them, he added.