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Opposition agrees to bring joint presidential candidate

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The All-Parties Conference convened by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday has decided to bring forward a joint candidate for the post of the president of Pakistan.

Chaired by Shehbaz Sharif, the meeting which was attended by the leaders of 11 opposition parties including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and others continued for around four hours.

During the meeting, the participants expressed grave concerns regarding PPP and complaint of the party’s withdrawal from premier elections and deciding against voting in favour of Shehbaz Sharif.

PML-N leaders Abdul Qadir Baloch, Ameer Muqam, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Tariq Fazal Chaudhary, Sardar Ayaz SAadiq, Ahsam Iqbal among other were present in the meeting.

Yousaf Raza Gillani and Khurshid Shah were leading the PPP delegation which includes Sherry Rehman, Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira and others.

Similarly, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Liaquat Baloch, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi and Maulana Awais Noorani from MMA were participating in APC.

Addressing media after the conference in the resort town of Murree, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that a consensus had been reached on a united candidate who will be announced tomorrow (Sunday).

He said that all parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have agreed to bring forward a united candidate for the post. However, he said the PPP had requested more time for consultation, and the final announcement will be made tomorrow.

Ahsan Iqbal also raised reservations over the decision by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allow overseas Pakistanis to case their votes saying the decision was made in haste.

He also condemned the alleged threats to certain members of the opposition particularly the ANP and said the government was working on an agenda of victimisation.

However, he said that the opposition has reached a consensus that a united candidate will be bright forward for the presidential post. Shehbaz Sharif will made the final announcement for the presidential candidate.

“All the opposition parties have given the authority to Shehbaz Sharif to pick the name of a presidential candidate by August 26,” the former interior minister said, talking to the media after a meeting of opposition party in Murree.

PPP leader Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira said that Aitzaz Ahsan is the candidate suggested by their party for the president.

Earlier, the All-Parties Conference had decided to constitute a three-member penal to settle on the name of joint presidential candidate. The panel will be headed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman while the members of the body will be from the PML-N and the PPP.

According to reports, the PML-N has nominated three names for its presidential nominee which are: former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Sartaj Aziz and Lt. Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch. These names were placed before the opposition members for consideration.

The PPP has already nominated veteran politician Aitzaz Ahsan as its presidential nominee, while PTI has named Arif Alvi as its contestant for the slot.

The major opposition parties invited to the conference included the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Awami National Party.

The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal – an alliance of five religious parties – also participated in the APC today. The MMA delegation comprised MMA and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, JUI-F Secretary General Liaquat Baloch, and others.

The spokesperson had earlier said that the participants of the meeting would also exchange views on how to play the role of an effective opposition, and would chalk out a protest strategy against alleged rigging in the July 25 polls.

JUI-F’s Liaquat Baloch said that the MMA would hold a meeting on tomorrow (Aug 26) to discuss developments in the APC.

The PML-N is not in favour of Ahsan, arguing that the PPP didn’t consult any of the parties sitting on the opposition benches before making the decision.

Tensions ballooned up between the PPP and PML-N after the former refused to vote for PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif in the Aug 17 election for the office of prime minister due to his controversial statements against the PPP leadership in the past.

PML-N leader Pervez Rasheed had earlier said that the party would consider the name of PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan for the post of president if he visits Adiala prison and apologises to Nawaz Sharif for his remarks.

Replying a question whether the PML-N would support Ahsan in the presidential elections, Rasheed said that the party holding consultations with other opposition parties and wants a joint opposition candidate for the election.

PPP leader Aitzaz has termed the demand of PML-N’s Pervez Rasheed regarding apology from Nawaz Sharif as ‘non-serious’.

Speaker National Assembly (NA) Asad Qaiser has summoned meeting of members of parliament on September 4 in Islamabad for election of new President of Pakistan.

The meeting will be held at Parliament House at 10:00 am.

The ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has given name of Arif Alvi for the slot of president while grand opposition has also accelerated contacts to field joint candidate in the election.

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