ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People’s Party on Thursday continued seeking support for installing their own men at the helm of Senate with no clear winner in sight.

Ruling PML-N claimed it had mustered the support of more than 53 senators – the strength required to win the post in the 104-member House.

But PPP also did not give up, as PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari met Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and independent senators-elect to woo them.

Senator Saleem Mandviwalla has become Zardari’s first priority for nomination to the top senate slot; however, name of Farooq Naek and Sherry Rehman have also not being ruled out.

Ousted premier Nawaz Sharif was looking for a suitable candidate within the PML-N, after Zardari rejected his proposal of re-electing PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani as Senate chairman.

“I personally wanted to see Raza Rabbani as the next chairman. Our party supports him because he fulfils the criteria but in any other case, we will field our own candidate,” Sharif told journalists here.

“If his (Rabbani’s) leadership doesn’t want to place him there, then we’ll find someone like that from our own fold (probably our ally Hasil Khan Bizenjo),” he told a questioner.

Before Zardari’s meeting with the senators-elect from Balochistan, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan met with Balochistan CM and lent his party’s support to Bizenjo.

On Thursday, Khan said that he would do anything to stop PML-N from winning the senate chairmanship. He believed a senate chairman appointed by PML-N would hide Sharif family’s alleged corruption.

The development indicated the PTI senators may support PPP candidate as part of the CM’s group.

The PML-N also held a meeting with Nawaz Sharif in the chair. The meeting was attended, among others, by Saad Rafique, Mushahidullah Khan, Ayaz Sadiq and Musahid Hussain, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Fazlur Rehman and Hasil Khan Bizenjo.

PML-N leaders said Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and PML-Functional had extended their support to them.

Speaking to the journalists, Saad Rafique said the party had yet not decided on candidates for the posts of senate chairman and deputy chairman.

A simple majority of 53 votes is required to elect senate chairman and deputy chairman. Following the elections, the PML-N and independents backed by the party have 33 seats in senate – followed by the PPP with 20.

After the recent Senate elections, independents (other than those who were backed by PML-N) make up the third largest grouping with 17 seats. The PTI has 12 seats.

If the PTI announces to support PPP’s nominee for chairman, the post of deputy chairman will go to a member named by the PTI and its allies.

After meeting with Balochistan CM and the senators-elect at the Balochistan House, Zardari said that he was confident the Baloch lawmakers will vote for his nominee.

CM Bizenjo welcomed Zardari’s visit and said the PPP should support their ‘viewpoint’. “We are sure PPP will back us. We have given authority to Asif Ali Zardari to make a decision,” he said.

Zardari said that Raza Rabbani had ignored violations of the Constitution by Nawaz Sharif which put him out of the race.

“Raza Rabbani also did not remove our reservations over the 18th amendment. This is why Rabbani is [more] closer to Nawaz Sharif [than PPP leadership],” he said.

Zardari said he had supported JUI-F’s Abdul Ghafoor Haideri for the deputy chairman post in the previous election as Haideri was a Baloch.

The PPP leader said that his party had enough support to elect its nominee as chairman.

“The PML-N is making false claims. They do not have the support of the majority (in the Senate). We will move forward through consultations and win. Our candidate will be finalised by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. We will see how we can accommodate Balochistan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the recent split in the MQM-P has made it difficult for major political players to get the Sindh-based party’s support.

The PML-N and the PPP are in constant touch with both Farooq Sattar and Khalid Maqbool groups of the Karachi-based party.

Maqbool-led Bahadarabad group is considerably much powerful, sources said, as they had the support of four senators i.e. Faroogh Naseem, Mian Atiq, Khushbakht Shujat and Barrister Saif. Senator Nikhat Farooq is the only one supporting Dr Farooq Sattar, they said.

Sources said PPP’s delegation led by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah held a crucial meeting with Khalid Maqbool to get their support. They reportedly got a conditional positive response from the Bahadurabad group.

The sources said that there could also be a surprising offer from the PPP to nominate MQM-P’s Faroogh Naseem for the top seat of the Upper House of Parliament.

The MQM-P (Bahadurabad) has already announced Farogh’s name for the top slot.