LAHORE - The JI leaders yesterday held a meeting with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif to discuss the strategy for the September 4 presidential election and to bring a consensus candidate for this office by taking the PPP on board.

A delegation of the JI; a component of the MMA which now is a part of Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (commonly known as grand opposition alliance against the PTI government), called on PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif at Model Town here.

JI team comprising General Secretary Liaqat Baloch and Central Naib Ameer Farid Ahmad Piracha, and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif expressed common views on continuing efforts for convincing all parties in the alliance for pitting a unanimous candidate against the PTI in the election for the President of Pakistan.

The meeting of the two parties took place in the background of differences having emerged in the alliance after the PPP announced Aitzaz Ahsan as presidential candidate without taking other allies into confidence.

The PML-N, MMA and other partners, disagreeing to the PPP decision, separately named JUI-F Ameer Maulana Fazlur Rehman as the alliance candidate in the presidential poll. The PML-N, the largest party in the National Assembly after the PTI, expressed serious concerns over Aitzaz Ahsan’s name as it was offended over the remarks made by the PPP candidate in the past about the Sharifs, particularly on the illness of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz.

The PML-N had offered the PPP to pick up Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani instead of Aitzaz.

The joint candidate of the alliance, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, also called on PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari Monday to woo him for support, but the former President left the final decision to the party meeting Tuesday when the PPP rejected Maulana as the alliance candidate and stuck to Ch Aitzaz Ahsan.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman is optimistic about winning the presidential slot in case the opposition saves its votes from being divided into its two candidates that will ensure victory of PTI candidate Dr Arif Alvi.

In the latest development, when the PPP dismissed the name of Maulana Fazlur Rehman as presidential candidate, the latter phoned the PML-N president and discussed the situation with him.

After the meeting, Liaquat Baloch told media persons that the alliance will continue to reach out to all parties to muster support for Fazl. He said contacts will also be established with the PPP and added, like other parties, it is right of MMA (JUI-F a part of it) to field its candidate for the President and the alliance will actively campaign for his victory.

He recalled the PPP had told the APC arranged by the PML-N that the decisions of the meeting will be placed before the party leadership and a panel will be named, but the PPP did not name anyone. He said Maulana Fazlur Rehman believes in parliamentary democracy and the Constitution and, given the situation, he is the best choice for the presidential election. The JI leader said a dispersed ppposition will not work and the parties in the alliance will need to go jointly in future, so the matters that divide alliance parties must be avoided at this point of time.

To a question, he said every party takes decision according to its own needs and so did the PPP and the rest of the parties in the alliance. Despite all that, he said, they will not give up efforts for a consensus candidate till last day of the election.

Regarding the last election, Baloch said it is consensus view of all that the elections were grossly rigged. “Our democratic system has been taken over and the alliance will struggle to retrieve it,” he said.

To another question, Baloch said Afghan people are fed up with American presence in Afghanistan and do not want US troops anymore in their country. He said the secular class of society colours jihad as terrorism.