ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party is unlikely to confront Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government in the centre after formal election of Imran Khan as the prime minister this week, political sources said.

Close aides of the Bhutto family told The Nation that the PPP would not fight Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s war against the PTI but would try to pursue its own agenda for a possible comeback in the next elections.

There is a debate whether Shehbaz Sharif, the joint candidate of the opposition for the slot of the prime minister, will get all the 53 votes of the PPP as he has a bitter past with the PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

The PML-N has nominated Shehbaz Sharif as its parliamentary leader and candidate for the office of the prime minister against Imran Khan, a nomination not welcomed by the PPP.

Khurshid Shah was named for the post of the National Assembly speaker by the PPP who lost to the PTI candidate Asad Qaiser. Shah received the PML-N votes, taking his tally to 146 against Qaiser’s 176. Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)’s Asad Mehmood also lost his bid for the deputy speaker’s slot but almost all opposition members, 143, voted for him too. The PTI’s Qasim Khan Suri won this contest with 183 votes.

The big question is whether Shehbaz Sharif, if he stays as the PML-N candidate against the PPP coldness, will get at least 146 votes that were cast for Khurshid Shah. A senior leader of the PPP predicted that the Sharif might not attract the same number of votes as Khurshid Shah. “I don’t see Shehbaz Sharif getting same number of votes. Even Asad Mehmood did not get 146 votes. There are also rumours that some PML-N lawmakers could also vote for Imran Khan (in PM’s election on August 17),” he maintained.

The close aide of the PPP leadership said that even if the party went ahead to vote for Shehbaz Sharif, the ‘joint struggle’ could come to a ‘full stop’ after the PM’s election. “People are calling it (the PPP-PML-N alliance) an unnatural alliance and it is true. Remember the 2008 coalition government which broke within weeks. This alliance will not last long. Staying together for 5 years is a far cry,” he added.

Another PPP leader said that the party would not ‘unnecessarily confront’ the PTI government. “Our leaders have already promised to support the government on national issues,” he remarked.

PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari is also under pressure due to the arrest of Anwar Majeed, owner of the Omni Group, who is known as a close friend of the former president. Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed were arrested by Federal Investigation Agency outside Supreme Court on Wednesday in connection with the fake bank accounts that were used for alleged money laundering. A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case. Some analysts described the arrest as a ‘message’ to Zardari to stay away from the PML-N.

Earlier, Imran Khan submitted his nomination papers for the office of the prime minister. Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed suggested Imran Khan’s name for Leader of the House while Fakhar Imam supported his nomination.

The PTI took decisive lead by winning 117 general seats against the PML-N and the PPP that won 64 and 43 seats, respectively, in the July 25 polls. Seats reserved for women and minorities were awarded to the parties later.

Meanwhile, there are rumours making rounds that the PPP and the PTI are engaged in covert talks on the upcoming presidential election. The incumbent President Mamnoon Hussain’s 5-year term will end on September 9.

The president is indirectly elected by the electoral college comprising Senate, National Assembly and the provincial assemblies. The Constitution provides that election to the office of the president must be held no earlier than 60 days and no later than 30 days before expiry of the term of the incumbent president. If the assemblies are not in place, the Constitution allows the election of the president to be delayed for 30 days after the general election. Under this rule, the presidential election must be held by August 23. “The PPP may ask the PTI to nominate a PPP-backed candidate for the president’s slot,” said an insider.