ISLAMABAD - Opposition parties on Saturday agreed in principle to field a joint candidate for presidential elections.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif will announce name of the joint candidate today (Sunday). Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) President Maulana Fazlur Rehman is leading the four-member panel to choose the nominee.

Shehbaz chaired an all-party conference (APC) at Murree residence of former PM Nawaz Sharif, which agreed to field a joint candidate in the presidential elections scheduled to be held on September 4.

Central leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Awami National Party (ANP), National Party (NP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Qaumi Watan Party and Pak Sarzameen Party attended the conference that continued for several hours.

Shehbaz, Khawaja Asif, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Abdul Qadir Baloch were from the host party while Syed Khurshid Shah, Yousaf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Sherry Rehman represented the PPP.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Liaquat Baloch, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Maulana Awais Noorani were from the MMA while Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and Mian Iftikhar Hussain represented the ANP and Mir Hasil Bizenjo the National Party.

The huddle also discussed roadmap for agitation against alleged rigging in July 25 elections, voting rights for overseas Pakistanis and harassment of some opposition leaders. The issue of changing Senate chairman with a joint opposition parties’ candidate could not be taken up during yesterday’s huddle.

Sources said the PML-N had objected to nomination of Ch Aitzaz Ahsan on the ground that PPP should have consulted the joint opposition parties before making any decision and unilateral announcement of Aitzaz ‘caused controversy’.

Sources said that on the onset, Fazl criticised the PPP for not extending support to the PML-N president in the elections of prime minister against the agreement reached at the meeting of opposition parties in Islamabad. He said that they were against taking the oath but on the request of the PPP they changed their mind and joined the Parliament. Later, he said that in breach of the agreement the PPP withdrew its support to Shehbaz in the elections for the prime minister.

PPP representatives silently listened to all this and Syed Khurshid Shah said that they had backed Shehbaz Sharif in elections for the slot of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly.

Though the PML-N leadership was host of the event, they politely conveyed their concerns to the PPP for not seconding the joint opposition decisions and their criticism of Shehbaz’s candidature.

The PPP leaders also came up with a counter complaint about Senator Pervez Rashid’s remarks about Ch Aitzaz Ahsan.

Coming up with a quick response, Khawaja Asif said that Pervez’ remarks had nothing to do with the party policy. Interrupting Kh Asif, Shehbaz regretted comments of Pervez, said sources in the meeting.

However, the meeting agreed that the name of Aitzaz would be withdrawn and a panel of three names would be given while MMA chief would lead a penal to pick the final candidate to be fielded as the joint opposition candidate.

The panel will consist of one member each from the PPP and the PML-N while another member would be picked from any of other parties in the fold of the joint opposition.

Sources revealed that all opposition parties had agreed that the candidate might be from the PPP but the name of Aitzaz should be withdrawn.

The PPP leaders sought time for consultation with their chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and would likely inform the panel at night so that formal announcement could be made on Sunday.

The opposition parties also took up the issue of threats to some opposition leaders and urged the government to ensure security to them.

Similarly, the meeting welcomed granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis but at the same time expressed serious reservations about the mechanism. They demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan ensure transparency in the exercise as its past record of holding elections had fallen flat in the July 25 polls.

The huddle deferred the matter of bringing opposition parties-backed chairman of Senate till next meeting while agreed to hold joint protest against the alleged massive rigging in July 25 elections.



Opposition to name joint candidate today