Amid growing differences between the two main parties in Pakistan's ruling coalition, the PPP is expected to nominate its co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for the post of president following a meeting of the party's top leadership on Friday.
Pakistan People's Party parliamentarians backed Zardari for the post of president during a dinner hosted by him last night, describing him as the "most suitable candidate".
The move came after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the second largest opposition group in Parliament, too said Zardari should be made the president.
In a recent interview, Zardari had ruled himself out of the presidential race but said the PPP had the right to seek the post as it is the largest party in the ruling coalition. He told the dinner meeting of PPP parliamentarians last night that a final decision will be made after consulting the coalition's leadership.
The PPP's move to project Zardari as the party's presidential candidate comes in the wake of a threat by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to pull his party out of the coalition and sit in the opposition if the judges deposed by former President Pervez Musharraf are not reinstated by Friday.
Sharif told the Wall Street Journal that it would "be a bad day for democracy" if the judges are not restored. The PML-N would "be forced to sit in the opposition" if the judges are not brought back to their positions though it would "not try to bring the government down".
The PML-N has also said it wants the next president to be from a smaller province like Balochistan or North West Frontier Province.
Sources said the decision to back Zardari for the post of president was made by the PPP's top hierarchy and a formal announcement would be made after a meeting of the party's central executive committee on Friday.
The MQM will endorse the PPP CEC's recommendation to nominate Zardari, the sources said.
In return for its support, the MQM will continue to hold the office of the Governor of Sindh and also join the coalition in the centre and be given ministerial slots in the federal cabinet.
The MQM is part of the opposition at the centre though it is a partner in the PPP-led coalition government in Sindh province.
The Awami National Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam are also expected to support Zardari's candidacy. The PPP is also in contact with dissident members of the opposition PML-Q, some of whom met Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday.
The PPP if hopeful of getting its candidate elected as the president with the support of the MQM, ANP, JUI, PML-Q dissidents, some smaller groups and independent lawmakers even if the PML-N does not support it.
Former President Pervez Musharraf resigned on Monday to avoid impeachment by the ruling coalition and his successor has to be elected by September 17.
The PPP and PML-N are also divided on the issue of giving indemnity to Musharraf, with the PML-N opposing such a move.
The electoral college for the election of the President comprises the four provincial assemblies, the National Assembly and the Senate.