Grand opposition fields Khursheed Shah for NA speaker slot

ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s alliance has agreed on the candidature of Khursheed Shah to run for the slot of speaker National Assembly while it has once again failed to name the contestants for the crucial portfolios of prime minister and Punjab chief minister.
The huddles of the leaders from the opposition parties — including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and smaller political groups including the Awami National Party, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Qaumi Watan Party and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal continued in the federal capital.
After lengthy consultations, the opposition parties decided to nominate senior PPP leader and former opposition leader in the NA Khursheed Shah to contest for the speakership.
The opposition; however, failed to name candidates for the election of premiership, Punjab chief minister, NA deputy speaker as well as speaker and deputy speaker in the Punjab Assembly.
The joint opposition has already agreed that its candidate for the premiership election would be from PML-N and the party chief Shehbaz Sharif is regarded as an obvious choice in this regard.
MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman wants that NA deputy speaker candidate should belong to the MMA, it is further learnt.
However, given that Fazl lost both his NA seats to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidates in the general elections held on July 25, he is not eligible to contest for any slot of parliament or provincial assemblies.
The MMA is now likely to nominate any other leader for NA deputy speakership election.
Dr Sirajul Haq, the chief of Jamaat-e-Islami which is also part of MMA, also lost general elections from his home constituency and cannot contest as a candidate for any slot of NA.
The opposition said the opposition is mulling over announcing its candidates for the premiership and deputy speaker NA either on the days of the respective elections or till the time the PTI led coalition announces its candidates.
For fielding the candidates in Punjab Assembly, the ‘Grand Opposition Alliance’ has so far kept mum amid reports that the candidates for chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker in the provincial assembly are likely belong to the PML-N on account of its heavy presence in the provincial legislature compared to other opposition parties.
On Friday, days after formation of the Grand Opposition Alliance, the opposition parties formed another ‘Alliance for Free and fair Elections,’ a united front of the opposition parties that would deal with the plan to protest against alleged poll-rigging in the general polls and field joint candidates for the crucial elections on the key slots of NA and PA.
This was the second consecutive meeting of the opposition leaders that ended up without devising any concrete plan or devising a practicable strategy to deal with the political challenges posed by the rise of PTI and its coalition partners in the recently held general elections.
Earlier on Thursday, opposition’s All Parties Conference announced to form a 16-member committee to carve out a plan for the upcoming elections of the premier, CM Punjab and related slots.
A senior PML-N leader said that PPP wanted to field Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for the position of Leader of the Opposition in NA whereas N-League wanted to field Shehbaz. In a bid to exert its claim, the PML-N on Friday nominated Shehbaz as the candidate for the Leader of the Opposition in NA.
“Opposition’s candidatures for the slots of premier, Punjab chief minister and relevant portfolios have nothing more than a symbolic value. The real contest is within the opposition forces — for the position of the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly,” said a PML-N leader close to Shehbaz, requesting anonymity.
In Punjab Assembly, the PML-N would be in a comfortable position to have its leader of the opposition elevated, the official said, adding that Khawaja Saad Rafique was a strong candidate for the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly.
In addition, it is learnt, the PPP has also opposed to holding protests on the eve of the election of the PM. “They (PPP leaders) are very clear about it. They say that the protests should be held inside parliament and provincial assemblies once the legislative houses are formed and they started functioning.
“Options like protesting on the roads or protesting on the eve of the leader of the house in NA are not something the PPP subscribes to,” said a well-placed political leader.