PPP poised to have upper hand in Senate|Allies agree to support Raza Rabbani for top slot

ISLAMABAD – The race for the top Senate slots has paced up as both the major parties (PPP and PML-N) on Monday geared up consultations with the smaller parties for a clean finish in their favour.
However, it appeared that the PPP was in the lead in terms of its ability to woo likeminded parties.

On its part, seeing that attaining simple majority in the house of 104 Senators was a bit difficult, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz came up with a smart proposal to bring consensus candidates for chairman and deputy chairman slots in consultation with all the stakeholders in the upper house of the Parliament for which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited the heads of all parliamentary parties to a luncheon Tuesday (today).

On the other hand, the opposition parties, led by PPP, had a marathon session and named Senator Main Raza Rabbani for the slot of chairman.
The name for the slot of deputy chairman will be finalized today (Tuesday) after thorough deliberations.

The main leadership of opposition factions including MQM, ANP, PML-Q and BNP (Awami) supported fielding PPP’s candidate for the top position in a meeting with PPP’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, at Zardari House.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also attended the meeting and endorsed the decision made by opposition parties.

Sources said that the opposition parties have also reached a consensus to give the deputy chairman slot to the ruling party (PML-N).
The decision to support government for deputy chairman was also made unanimously, sources added.

Talking to media, Mian Raza Rabbani thanked all the opposition parties’ heads for expressing confidence in him.

ANP chief Asfandyar Wali said that ANP in the consultative session decided to put weight behind Raza Rabbani.
“The name for the slot of deputy chairman will be decided tomorrow,” he said adding that this slot has been left for a senator from Balochistan.

PML-Q’s lawmaker Kamil Ali Agha said that all the opposition parties have expressed confidence in Raza Rabbani for the slot of chairman.

MQM’s lawmaker Farooq Sattar also expressed his support for Raza Rabbani.

Earlier, PPP’s member went all the way to woo Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to participate in the meeting as he stayed away despite the invitation.
Sources said that JUI-F chief after some reluctance on some of the issues finally decided to participate in the meeting to share his stance.

The PPP co-chairman, before holding meeting with different parties, had also contacted MQM’s supermo Altaf Hussain to seek his support.

Sources said Altaf Hussain has given assurance of his party’s support to PPP’s candidate for the top slot and not to field its own candidate.
Zardari, in return, offered some ministries in Sindh cabinet.

The main opposition party (PPP) having 28 members is quite confident to grab the top slot as other opposition parties (MQM 8, JUI-F 5, ANP 7, PML-Q 4 and BNP-Awami 2 senators) have assured their support for the election of Senate chairman.

PPP’s co-chairman after the successful victory in March5 polls had extended his stay in Islamabad and conducted a series of meetings with his party members to field a candidate which would not be rejected by any opposition party.

It would not be out of place to mention here that the PML-Q leadership has already said that they would support Zardari in the contest.

Although ANP, sources said, was also approached by the ruling PML-N, it also clearly favoured Pakistan People’s Party.

The same was the case with MQM, sources said, as it was also approached by PML-N with some ‘attractive package’, but it decided to stand by the PPP.

Ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) cabinet members mainly Kh Saad Rqfique and Pervaiz Rasheed held meetings with leaders of MQM, ANP and PML-Q and sought their support.

Sources aware of the deliberations of these meetings informed The Nation that the leaders of almost all these parties made no commitment with the ruling party simply saying that they would come up with formal response after consultation with their party leadership.

Sources in the PML-Q informed that party chief Ch Shujaat Hussain advised the ruling party ministers to evolve a consensus on the top slots with the rest of the Parliamentary parties in the upper house for the greater good of democracy.

Awami National Party leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour also expressed similar sentiments and said that all stakeholders should sit together to evolve consensus on candidates who would be acceptable to all.

Perhaps it was in the light of the feedback from the mainstream parties that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has invited the leadership of all the parliamentary parties to a luncheon.

Ruling PML-N minister Pervaiz Rasheed also approached PTI leader Shafqat Mahmood but the latter linked joining of any consultation on the matter with formation of Judicial Commission to probe the alleged rigging in 2013 general elections.

On the other hand the JUI-F chief, despite a lot of pressure from the government, went to the residence of Asif Ali Zardari where the other opposition parties’ leaders held detailed discussions.

Sources in the JUI-F informed The Nation that in hectic consultation within the party for the last two days, majority of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s close aides had expressed their annoyance and abhorrence towards the ruling PML-N and suggested him to go with Zardari.

But on the other hand, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also been invited by the prime minister for a one-on-one meeting today (Tuesday) ahead of the lunch he has called for all stakeholders in the upper house of the Parliament.

Sources said that JUI-F chief may decide his future course after his meeting with the prime minister wherein he may demand that his concerns on the 21st constitutional amendment be addressed.

MQM and PML-N delegates earlier had a meeting, with no results.
After the meeting, MQM senior member Rauf Siddiqui had said that his party wanted to bring its own candidate for the top slots of Senate.
“MQM has been supporting parties for the last 30 years.
Now we are seeking support of other parties,” said Siddiqui, adding that political factions should also support MQM in upcoming second phase of Senate elections.
“We have cast votes for different parties for this slot in the past and now we are demanding support from other parties,” he added.

To a question, MQM’s senior member made it clear that it was not final decision of Muttahida as party would further deliberate on it.
“MQM is keenly watching matters and final decision would be made after thorough deliberation,” he added.

To a question, MQM senior lawmaker Farooq Sattar said that political parties should not stop dialogue process.

Source: The Nation

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