PPP’s NA-124, NA-131 candidates withdraw in favour of PML-N on Bilawal’s call
LAHORE: In a surprise change of hearts, the Pakistan People Party (PPP) has announced seat adjustment with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for the upcoming by-elections just hours before the poll campaign ended on October 12 midnight.
In a joint press conference held in Lahore on Friday, both the leading opposition parties announced contesting the by-polls together with the other opposition parties in a bid to give a tough competition to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Chaudary Manzoor of the PPP said it was a tough decision not only for the PPP but also for PML-N given their differences, but in view of the towering challenges to democracy during the current PTI-led regime,
“both sides had to swallow this bitter pill”.
He appealed to their workers to support PML-N candidates on all the seats of Lahore as PPP candidates had withdrawn in favour of PML-N leaders.
Manzoor also said the PTI had already caused the economy to crumble and embarrassed the country globally. The PPP, he added, would not let them influence the NFC award and the 18th constitutional amendment.
Meanwhile, PPP candidates for NA-124 and NA-131 have also announced their withdrawal from elections in favour of PML-N candidates, conceding to the orders of party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Khawaja Saad Rafique, the only senior PML-N leader in the conference, said he appreciated the leadership of both parties for realising the sensitivity of time and taking this decision.
“We [PPP, PML-N] have both learnt from our mistakes in the past,” he said, adding that it was wrong to assume the Charter of Democracy was not honoured.
Rafique said many thought the PML-N and the PPP would not be able to get along but “we always told them it takes time to forge a strong understanding” as both parties had different ideologies but share a strong democratic vision.
“The PML-N has high hopes from the young PPP chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,” said the former railways minister, adding that if former PM Benazir Bhutto had been alive, Pakistan would have been on a different political course.
He also criticised the PTI-led provincial government for taking vindictive measures against them in NA-131. He said detention orders had been issued for numerous PML-N workers as PM Imran feared losing from the constituency “which in reality he never had won”.
It is pertinent to mention here that both parties have rejected this was an alliance in any form or manner.
“This is only a seat adjustment deal and nothing else,” said senior PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, adding that the party had used the same formula it proposed in the first all-party conference that runners-up from any of the opposition parties should be the candidate of all opposition parties in that constituency.
The decision to agree adjustment proposal, according to PPP sources, was taken in view of the PTI’s “planned adventurism of fiddling with” the NFC award and the 18th constitutional amendment. They said that it was to show to the government that the opposition parties had united against them and would not let the PTI sail through so easily with their ‘nefarious’ plans.
As per the developments till late Friday night, the PPP will support the PML-N in all four Lahore seats – two each in national and provincial assemblies – whereas the PML-N will support the PPP on all five seats from Sindh.
In NA-35, both the PPP and the PML-N would support the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami (Fazl) candidate while both the parties will still compete each other in Faisalabad despite the adjustment. On the remaining NA seats from Punjab, the PPP is said to be supporting the PML-N while the PML-N is backing the PPP in PP-261 Rahim Yar Khan. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, both the JUI-F and the PML-N would support the PPP, and similarly the opposition will support the ANP in PK-64 Nowshera.
According to PPP’s Manzoor, the decision on provincial seats has been left with the local party leadership.
Both party spokespersons did not have exact information of the remaining seats where adjustment plan has been agreed upon.
The announced seat adjustment seemed to be a last-minute plan as no senior leaders from either party participated in the conference.
Manzoor too said he was told to attend the press conference early on Friday as Qamar Zaman was busy with the election campaign.
Earlier on September 23, PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, along with other party leaders, met PPP Secretary General Nayar Bukhari to seek their support for the upcoming by-elections.
It was then revealed that Bukhari had sought time from Haq to talk to the PPP’s senior leadership for a possible alliance. “The instructions to talk to the PPP for an alliance came directly from Nawaz Sharif,” says a senior party leader.