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The efforts of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to replace Pakistan Peoples Party’s Khursheed Shah with its own candidate have not borne fruits so far. There is internal politicking going on within the PTI over the nomination of Shah Mehmood Qureshi as the candidate to replace the incumbent opposition leader.

The charismatic Khan is ideally suited to whip up his supporters rather than work along with various parties inside the house. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, with his measured approach, may turn out to be a better choice for this critical position

The PTI announced on Wednesday that no candidate has been nominated for the slot, clearly reverting from its stance of last week. The party had reached out to the Pakistani faction of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in a bid to garner support for evicting Khursheed Shah from his position as the Leader of Opposition. Some MQM sources state that Shah Mehmood Qureshi name was being suggested to them at the time.

The bitter rivalry between PTI and MQM has been momentarily set-aside for a number of reasons, but mostly because most of Imran’s complaints were against Altaf Hussain. Imran Khan is of the view that PPP and PML-N are chips of the same block who will eventually join hands to save their skins. In his words, the ‘mukh mukha’ politics will prevail. The PPP is strongly opposed to Khan’s “childish” politics (a word used by both Bilawal Bhutto and Asif Zardari). Imran Khan has time and again said that he will chase Zardari after Nawaz Sharif is held accountable for corruption. Khan was quite unequivocal in his criticism of the PPP during his power shows in Sindh.

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The importance of the role of the opposition leader goes far beyond his role in parliament. The opposition leader along with the government has a say in who becomes the next chairperson of NAB – the accountability bureau – who has been under fire for not doing their job and pursuing cases against the rich and powerful people in the country. The NAB chief is due to be appointed in October 2017. The opposition leader also plays a role in ECP chairperson, rules for the elections and in the formation of the interim government to take over during the election period.

The PTI-led opposition will likely ensure, as much it can, a free and fair environment to hold the next elections. The MQM, which was split last year wants to resurrect itself and get out of the shadows of the tainted Altaf Hussain; moreover, weakening the PPP will help them re-emerge as a power broker in Sindh. It has been reported by the media that Nawaz Sharif has told his party leaders that they should ensure that a PTI person does not become the opposition leader.

However, given his adamancy in pushing forward his opinion may not make him an ideal candidate for the role. If anything, opposition parties may detest Khan’s nomination

However, infighting or rather disagreements in PTI may become a boon for Khursheed Shah. The anti-Shah Mehmood Qureshi division within the PTI want Imran Khan to become the opposition leader. Shah Mehmood Qureshi also alluded to a consensus being reached on nominating Khan as the Leader of the Opposition. The veteran soft-spoken politician from Multan said that he would reach out to the PML-Q after Ashura.

“Imran Khan has asked us to initiate the process and hold consultations with other opposition parties since it is a very good proposal. However, we will nominate someone after consultations, and only when we start gathering support from the other opposition parties,” he said.

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Imran Khan is a larger than life figure for many and the de-facto opposition leader since the beginning of PML-N’s tenure. However, given his stringent manner in pushing forward his opinion, it may not make him an ideal candidate for the role.  Unlike, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who with his measured approach, is able to bring on board all parties in agreement on many issues. Imran himself because he is who he is, may deter opposition parties from supporting PTI’s nomination, fearing that the 64-year old may turn his guns towards them anytime.

A group within the PTI wants Imran Khan to become opposition leader. Shah Mehmood Qureshi also alluded to a consensus being reached on nominating Khan as the Leader of the Opposition

More importantly, PTI itself needs Khan to spend time galvanizing the public and the party for the decisive battle next year, instead of having to spend all his time in parliament as opposition leader. They need to use his charisma where it is best utilized which is as a weapon in the fight for change and ‘Naya Pakistan’.

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