The opposition never was and still isn’t united

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News Analysis |

Despite persistent efforts by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to make the joint opposition parties drop the name of Maulana Fazlur Rehman as a candidate for the slot of the president, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) have stuck by their nominee. The senior leadership of the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-F (JUI-F) have agreed against withdrawing Fazl’s name for the presidential election. The decision was made in a meeting held at the PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif’s Model Town residence.

In a press conference held after the meeting, Fazl urged the PPP to agree on the decision made by the joint opposition parties over his name for the slot as “by not withdrawing its candidate the party is providing an easy opportunity to the PTI”. He added that the PPP had indirectly paved the way for Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold office by not voting in the leader of the house election in August. In the meeting, Fazl and Shehbaz discussed their future strategy regarding the upcoming presidential race.

Earlier, with the grand opposition alliance failing to reach consensus on a single nominee, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and MMA’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman had emerged as the two candidates challenging Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Dr. Arif Alvi’s bid for the Presidency in the September 4 election.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Akram Khan Durrani accompanied the JUI-F chief, while PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, and others were present in the meeting. Fazl said that he has been nominated as presidential candidate by all opposition parties except the PPP. “We will try to have consensus over a joint opposition candidate,” he said. The join opposition’s candidate said that he has cordial relation with the PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and requested him to withdraw his candidacy for the unity of opposition parties.

“PPP should accept opposition’s candidate to express unity among them,” he said. PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz Sharif argued that the opposition will put its maximum effort for its success in the presidential election. “We will also reach to the political parties who have not agreed to support Fazl,” the PML-N leader said. The PML-N and PPP leaders were expected to hold a meeting to reach a consensus for a joint candidate on Sunday but failed.

Read more: Opposition fields Maulan Fazal-ur-Rehman for President

Earlier, with the grand opposition alliance failing to reach consensus on a single nominee, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and MMA’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman had emerged as the two candidates challenging Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Dr. Arif Alvi’s bid for the Presidency in the September 4 election. Speaking to the media in Lahore on Sunday, the PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said they were willing to go to jail to speak to former premier Nawaz Sharif for the presidential election. The position of president doesn’t have that much power.

Qaira, who was flanked by Syed Khursheed Shah and the party’s presidential candidate Aitizaz Ahsan, said sometimes you need to put your own feelings aside to make compromises in politics. He gave the example of Benazir Bhutto putting aside what had been done to her and signing the Charter of Democracy.

The strategy seemed to have backfired. Not only was the PMLN chief disqualified and imprisoned for his corruption but similar cases have also opened against PPP chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

The PPP is supporting Ahsan in the presidential election, despite the joint opposition putting their hopes in another candidate. Kaira, however, said that there never was a united opposition and still isn’t one. If Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the opposition’s presidential candidate, accepts what we’re saying that will be good but if he doesn’t, we will still fight the election.

“We are here to contest the election,” said Kaira, adding that if Rehman doesn’t accept their demands, the result will be the same the PPP will contest the election. When asked whether they will be out of the game if they lose the presidential election, Shah said in politics, you’re never really out of the game. The game continues, he said.

Read more: Why Shehbaz may not serve as the opposition leader?

The failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate is expected to provide a virtual walkover to Dr. Alvi, however, both the opposition alliance and PPP had expressed hope that each would withdraw its candidate in favour of the other.

Many analysts assert that the disunity among the opposition is nothing new. While even before the 2008 elections, both the PPP and PMLN had decided to stick together overtly and covertly, there were allegations of a scant fulfillment of the pact by both sides. The only point of convergence between the two was to protect their corruption cases, fight against other government institutions and also to isolate the PTI.

The PTI stuck to a separate way using both agitation and legal measures to present itself as “the opposition” as compared to the PPP which was seen as the PMLN’s “B Team”.

The strategy seemed to have backfired. Not only was the PMLN chief disqualified and imprisoned for his corruption but similar cases have also opened against PPP chairman Asif Ali Zardari. Similarly, the PTI swept to power brushing aside both the PPP and PMLN who were taken to task by the voter for their misgovernance.

Many now assert that in the political machinations of Bilawal Zardari, PPP’s association with the PMLN would only lead to the downfall and lead to the party losing the modest gains it had made in the July 25th elections. Bilawal seeks to emulate the PTI model for future success.

Read more: Is Grand Opposition Alliance in disarray?

After the 2013 elections, the PTI was the third largest party in the parliament with the opposition title going to the PPP, yet the PTI stuck to a separate way using both agitation and legal measures to present itself as “the opposition” as compared to the PPP which was seen as the PMLN’s “B Team”. Many say it was this independent path forged by the PTI that led to its success in the 25th July elections.

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