ISLAMABAD: In an interesting development, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday rejected the idea of re-electing Raza Rabbani as Senate chairman as proposed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif.
Addressing a joint press conference with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad, Zardari said, “I don’t want that to happen.” When asked that the PML-N has already shown its willingness to support Rabbani, the PPP co-chairman smiled wryly and said, “Thank you very much, I do not want that.”
The PPP supremo said the JUI-F chief had sought some time for consultations within the party to come to a decision on the matter of extending support for the Senate top slots and expressed hope that Maulana would back his party’s candidate ‘like always’.
Talking to media, Fazlur Rehman said he proposed to Zardari the name of Raza Rabbani for the next chairman of the Upper House. To a question, he said that he was considering recommendations put forward by the PPP and the ruling PML-N, adding that a meeting of the party’s executive committee would be held for consultations in this regard.
Earlier in the day, deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the issue of Senate chairmanship with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, National Party President Mir Hasil Bizenjo and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party head Mehmood Khan Achakzai at a joint meeting of the heads of the PML-N and its allied parties.
The meeting was called to devise a strategy for the election of Senate chairman scheduled for March 12, alongside the oath-taking ceremony for the senators-elect.
“I want to see a personality like Raza Rabbani as Senate chairman,” Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying during the meeting. Following the meeting, Nawaz asked the JUI-F chief to convey to the PPP his party’s willingness to support Rabbani. “We think Raza Rabbani has been a good chairman and we are willing to support him. If this is not possible, we will field our own candidate,” Nawaz said.
Bizenjo, while speaking after the meeting, said the decision to select the chairman and the deputy chairman of the Upper House will be finalised in a day or two. He said the three parties combined had the required numbers of votes to elect a chairman of their choice but that they were yet to reach consensus on a candidate. He hoped that a joint candidate would be announced by Friday.
PML-N’s Saad Rafique, Mushahidullah Khan and Mushahid Hussain have, meanwhile, been tasked with contacting MQM senators for their support.
The PML-N’s allies have been asked to approach senators from the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan.
PPP’s Saleem Mandviwala and Sherry Rehman had been strong contenders for the slot of Senate chairman, but Sherry’s nomination was opposed by PPP’s allies. Farooq H Naek’s name is also being considered for the top slot, party insiders claimed.
Sources said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will neither field its own candidate nor support those nominated by the PPP or the PML-N for the Senate top slot. PTI might instead support a candidate from among independent senators from Balochistan or FATA if either of them contests for the seat, they added.
Another source, however, claimed that the PTI and PPP had entered into an agreement to get Saleem Mandviwalla elected for the post of Senate chairman. For the deputy chairman slot, the two have agreed to support Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, an independent candidate who was elected from Balochistan in the recent elections.
In the Senate polls last week, the PML-N emerged as the largest party in the Upper House of parliament. The party bagged a total of 15 Senate seats across the country, according to unofficial results, taking its total strength in the 104-member House to 33.
Despite the PPP’s decline in Senate to a total of 21 seats, the party is aiming to take the slots of chairman and deputy chairman with the help of allies and independents.
Published in Daily Times, March 8th 2018.