ISLAMABAD - The split in joint opposition on making the upcoming presidential a tough contest for the ruling coalition fell flat as Pakistan People’s Party refused to withdraw Ch Aitzaz Ahsan from the race while rest of the parties in opposition alliance landed Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the arena, making it almost cakewalk like situation for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate.
Although, the MMA President Maulana Fazl sounds optimistic about winning over Asif Ali Zardari, but insiders in the PPP said that now things had reached the point of no return and withdrawal of Ch Aitzaz Ahsan from the race looked next to impossible.
The decision to nominate Fazl as joint opposition candidate sans PPP was made at the meeting held here on Monday wherein the issue came under threadbare discussion. Almost all opposition parties found the fault on PPP part and hoped that for the greater cause of unity, Asif Ali Zardari would extend support to Maulana Fazlur Rehman who had the backing ANP, PkMAP, PML-N, NP and other small parties in the Joint Opposition.
On the other hand, the PPP meeting under the head of Asif Ali Zardari stood firm by their nominee Ch Aitzaz Ahsan for the presidential election and raised concerns over the MMA President Maulana Fazlur Rehman becoming candidate whereas he was earlier trying to convince the PML-N to support the PPP candidate.
The PPP leaders had expressed their resolve that they could go to any extent for keeping the opposition parties united, but would neither change their candidate nor extend support to anyone else in the run for the slot of the president.
The PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that they had tried their best to get the candidature of Ch Aitzaz Ahsan replaced with some other PPP leader as the position Aitzaz had taken against the PML-N central leadership made it difficult for the party to extend support to him.
The names of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Senator Mian Raza Rabbani were proposed by the joint opposition as alternate candidate for the presidential elections but the PPP leadership was adamant to go with Ch Aitzaz Ahsan.
The PML-N leader said that they would not let up their efforts to bring all the opposition parties on same page and would continue their efforts for keeping unity in the opposition parties for the greater cause of exposing massive rigging in July 25 elections.
National Party chief Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said that they had asked PPP to replace Ch Aitzaz Ahsan with anyone else and even offered them the slot of Chairman Senate to keep the opposition parties united but the PPP was not ready to listen to them. He further said that they wanted to win the presidential election and that would only be possible when the opposition parties would stand united. He said that they would continue their efforts to keep all the stakeholders in opposition along and hoped that now in changed situation, the PPP would extend support to Maulana Fazl and withdraw their candidate in his favour.
Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo revealed that the Maulana would be meeting Asif Ali Zardari and hoped that he would convince him on keeping the opposition parties on same page.
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Zahid Khan said that in case of split in the ranks of opposition, the main sufferer would be the masses as their issues could not be forcefully raised.
Later, through a statement, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq said that the solo flight of the PPP in the presidential elections resulted in the split of the joint opposition. Had the PPP consulted the joint opposition parties before naming Ch Aitzaz Ahsan as their presidential candidate, the situation would have been different, he said. He called upon the PPP leadership to stand by the joint opposition parties’ decision and extend support to Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Talking to media after his nomination for presidential election, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that they would fully participate in the elections and would try to convince the PPP to withdraw its candidate as in this case, they could even win the election. He said that his name came as an alternative when the PPP and the PML-N could not resolve their dispute over the candidature of Ch Aitzaz Ahsan.
He said that if the opposition parties remain split, it would be a walkover-like situation for the PTI candidate. He hoped that PPP would understand the situation and extend support to him because the PML-N was not ready to vote for Ch Aitzaz Ahsan and PPP leadership had also refused to replace Aitzaz with some other PPP leader acceptable to all.
He recalled that in 2002, when the PPP had brought its candidate for the election of prime minister and due to split in the opposition, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali had become prime minister with just one vote margin.
He said that he would immediately like to meet Asif Ali Zardari to persuade him to extend support to his candidature in this changed scenario as split in opposition would only benefit the government candidate.
Responding to media questions, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that the PPP’s not voting for Shahbaz Sharif for the Leader of the House election helped PTI to get Imran Khan easily elected prime minister in the first count.