ISLAMABAD: Clouds of controversy have started hovering over the coming presidential election as, after the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also has begun thinking of boycotting it.
Talking to Dawn on Thursday, PTI’s vice-chairman Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that after receiving a formal request from the PPP, his party had started in-house consultations on the option to boycott the presidential polls in protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to advance the polling date to July 30 from Aug 6 on the ruling PML-N’s request without hearing the other stakeholders.
Two other opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and the Awami National Party (ANP) — also declared that they would support a boycott if the decision was taken jointly by the PPP and PTI.
The chief of the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Aftab Sherpao, told a PPP team which called on him at his residence that the final decision regarding participation or boycott of the polls would be made by his party in a meeting on Saturday.The PPP team comprised Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Leader of Opposition in Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, the party’s presidential candidate Raza Rabbani, information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira and former interior minister Rehman Malik. It met the chiefs of the ANP, PML-Q, QWP and the PTI in order to persuade them to boycott the elections.
ANP chief Asfandyar Wali told reporters after his meeting with the PPP delegation that his party would stand by the PPP in whatever decision it would take.
PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told the PPP leaders that his party was ready to announce the boycott on the condition that PTI chief Imran Khan should also do the same.
According to sources, Chaudhry Shujaat himself tried to contact Mr Khan after he returned from London in the morning, but could not talk to him. Later the PML-Q chief talked to Mr Qureshi and informed him about the objections raised by the PPP. Ajmal Wazir, the PML-Q’s senior vice-president, said Chaudhry Shujaat had categorically told the PPP that his party was ready for boycotting as well as for participating in the poll provided the decision was made from the platform of a joint opposition.
In case the PPP and the PTI failed to reach a consensus on boycott or on a joint candidate, the PML-Q would abstain from the voting, he said.
Mr Wazir said there was a strong likelihood that Chaudhry Shujaat and former chief minister Pervez Elahi would not be in the country on July 30 since the latter was expected to undergo an operation in London next week.
The PPP leaders later met the PTI chief at his residence and apprised him of their concerns over the SC decision.
Talking to reporters, a jubilant Chaudhry Aitzaz said the nation would hear “good news tomorrow” and the PPP and PTI would come up with a joint decision.
A PPP leader claimed that Imran Khan was also in favour of boycotting the election, but had sought time to consult his party’s members before taking a final decision.
He said Mr Khan had promised to get back to the PPP by Friday morning, the day when the Election Commission would scrutinise nomination papers of the candidates.
Mr Qureshi said he had discussed the issue with the PTI chief after his meeting with the PPP delegation and the party had started consultations on whether there would be any use of contesting the presidential polls.
He, however, said his party did not want to take any “emotional decision” and would adopt only the “correct and constitutional path”.
“It is premature to speak on the issue” was his reply when asked about the possibility of agreeing on a joint candidate if the two parties decided to participate in the polls.
He, however, regretted that the PPP had nominated Mr Rabbani as the candidate without consulting the PTI, thus forcing them to field retired Justice Wajihuddin as a candidate.
He aid the PTI also had “reservations” over the SC decision and it already had serious reservations over the conduct of the ECP in the general elections.
Mr Qureshi held the ECP responsible for the present controversy. “Was the ECP not aware of the dates when the presidential elections had become due? Was it not aware that Aug 6 would fall in the last Ashra (10-day period) of Ramazan?” he wondered.