ISLAMABAD: The top leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) met here on Monday in an effort to iron out their “differences” over seat adjustments and electoral alliances for the general election.
The PML-Q’s Information Secretary, Kamil Ali Agha, said that the two sides had discussed the “election strategy” and criteria for the selection of candidates in the next polls. He said the two sides would meet again on Wednesday.
In reply to a question, Mr Agha said his party had conveyed its “reservations” to the PPP leadership over reports that some members of the party were making efforts to cause defections within the PML-Q, particularly in Punjab. He said the PPP leaders rejected the reports and said that they wanted to continue the alliance with the PML-Q.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf led the PPP team, which comprised federal ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Mohammad Gondal and Rana Farooq Saeed, Punjab PPP President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo and former NA deputy speaker Nawaz Khokhar.
The PML-Q President, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, headed his party’s delegation, consisting of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, Mushahid Hussain Syed and Kamil Ali Agha.
It was the first formal meeting between the two parties after PML-Q’s refusal to hold talks for seat adjustment with Manzoor Wattoo, accusing him of trying to cause defections in the party.
The PML-Q alleges that after failing to woo potential winners from the PML-N and PTI, Mr Wattoo has started cultivating PML-Q leaders to persuade them to join the PPP.
After the PML-Q’s refusal, President Zardari authorised Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf recently to hold negotiations with the largest coalition partner of his party.
Sources said the PPP leaders rejected the PML-Q’s allegations regarding efforts to break the party in Punjab, saying Mr Wattoo, despite having good contacts in the PML-Q, had never attempted to cause defections in the Q-League.
The sources said the PML-Q leaders were told that Mr Wattoo had so far caused defections only in the PML-N and he had brought three sitting MNAs and a number of former MPs to the PPP fold.
Last year, President Asif Zardari had constituted a four-member team, headed by Mr Wattoo, for talks with the PML-Q. Moonis Elahi was leading PML-Q’s team. However, relations between the two parties got strained after only one meeting between them in which the two sides failed to reach an understanding on a formula for allocation of seats.
At one stage, some PPP and PML-Q leaders even started predicting a break-up between the two parties ahead of the election.
The talks between the two parties are being held amid reports that there is a strong group within the PML-Q which opposes election alliance with the PPP and wants the party leadership to contest the election from its own platform.
The two parties had earlier agreed to a simple formula, according to which the winners of the last elections and runners-up in the constituencies where both the parties had lost to others were to be joint candidates.
Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the differences surfaced when the PPP put its claim on the seats that had been won by the PML-Q, but later the winners joined either the PML-N or PTI. The PPP believes that the PML-Q has lost its right on the seats where its people have joined the forward bloc and are expected to contest next polls on the PML-N ticket.
Similarly, the PML-Q claims its right on the seats that have been vacated by the PPP legislators and where the PML-Q candidates were runners-up in the last election.
The sources said the two parties had differences on the candidates in over 60 constituencies – both from the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly.
They further claimed that the PPP had expressed its desire that the two parties should contest the polls with one symbol. The PML-Q, they said, agreed to the proposal but wanted the PPP also to contest with the symbol of “bicycle”, instead of “arrow”.
Kamil Ali Agha said the PML-Q was very clear and wanted that the two parties should contest polls with their respective election symbols. He, however, claimed that the issue was not discussed in Monday’s meeting.