ISLAMABAD  -  The Pakistan People’s Party has not completely closed its doors for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and a ‘deal’ for cooperation cannot be outrightly ruled out, The Nation has learnt.

Senior PPP leaders said that the party was ‘under pressure’ to join hands with the PTI in the centre to let Imran Khan run the government smoothly for the next five years.

A close aide of the PPP leadership told The Nation that the rumours of a possible meeting between Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan were not ‘groundless.’

“To be honest, there are more efforts from other forces than the PTI to join the federal government. We are under pressure and anything can happen. They (the hidden forces) are trying to keep us away from the PML-N,” he added.

Another PPP leader said the party was not against talks with any group. “The issue is whether or not we will join the government. There is a lot of pressure on our leadership, so we are not closing the doors (for the PTI). The unofficial talks are on but there have not been the highest level contacts so far. The PTI and their sympathisers are asking us to support them (in the centre),” he said, citing the top leadership’s recent meetings.

On July 25, millions of Pakistanis voted to elect a new government and prime minister in a ‘controversial election’. Around 800,000 police and military forces were stationed at more than 85,000 polling stations across the country as the voting took place.

Pakistan is a country of approximately 207 million people, out of which the number of registered voters were about 106 million. The PTI took the decisive lead by winning 116 seats against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and former president Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP which won 64 and 43 seats, respectively. While the PML-N could not retain dozens of seats, the PPP at least won more seats than 2013 polls.

Yesterday, the PPP did not avidly participate in Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s protest against the ‘rigged’ election. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did not join the protest rally. Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Khurshid Shah did participate in the demonstration but Shah urged for giving ‘room’ to Imran Khan. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif also skipped the show.

Fazlur Rehman said the nation should not accept ‘fake prime minister’ Imran Khan at any cost. “The reins of country are being handed over to an ineligible candidate,” he alleged.

PPP Parliamentarians Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said the party had protested against the rigging in polls and joining hands with the PTI could be a tricky decision. “After the polls, we took the stance that the mandate was stolen. Now sitting with them (the PTI) will look odd,” he said.

Speaking to The Nation, Babar said the PPP was making efforts for joint opposition to give tough time to the PTI-led government. “The PPP believes that the elections were largely rigged in favour of the PTI but we will remain part of the parliament for the sake of democracy,” he maintained.

Zardari had expected to do much better in the Punjab and Balochistan provinces in the July 25 elections but the results were far from expectations for the PPP.

In the 2013 polls, the PPP lost heavily and the low-popularity readings continued until 2017. The party however looked to make a comeback in Punjab with a few encouraging rallies in the populous province – that decides who will rule the country in every general elections.

Zardari believed that even 30 National Assembly seats from the 140-plus on offer in Punjab could give the party a realistic chance to lead a coalition government in the centre.

Punjab was once a stronghold of the PPP during the peak of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but it slowly drifted away to the right-wing or pro-right parties. The ruling PML-N has been firmly in control of the province over the recent past. The province, with a bigger population than all the other provinces combined, is effectively the ‘king-maker’ with scores of the National Assembly seats on offer.

In the last elections, the PML-N came to power riding over the popularity wave in Punjab. In other provinces, its performance was insignificant. The PTI gave the PML-N a tough fight this time.

Farhatullah Babar said the PPP would find it hard to support the PTI or sit with them in the government after the allegations of massive rigging. “We cannot stop anybody from contacting us but these decisions are taken after consultations within the party. So far, we are working for a strong opposition,” he contended.

Other sources said the PPP was leading the ‘joint opposition’ campaign to show the PTI its ‘power’ for a better ‘deal’. Before the elections, Zardari had claimed that no party would be able to form government without the PPP’s help.

 

PPP doors not completely shut for PTI

 

 

SHAFQAT ALI