Pakistan People's Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is unlikely to contest upcoming parliamentary by-polls, giving rise to speculation that his coalition partner PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif may follow suit.
Zardari preferred to continue to lead the party without entering the National Assembly or lower house of parliament, sources in the PPP said.
Though there were indications earlier that Zardari might contest the June 18 by-polls from his slain wife Benazir Bhutto's traditional constituency of Larkana, the party would now field his sister Faryal Talpur from the seat, the sources told Dawn newspaper.
During a recent interview, Zardari too hinted at this possibility. However, he had neither confirmed nor denied reports that he might contest elections from a constituency in Rawalpindi, thus keeping his options open in case of a change of mind.
The PPP has short-listed two candidates Aitzaz Ahsan and Amir Fida Paracha for the seat in Rawalpindi that was vacated by PML-N leader Javed Hashmi.
A senior PPP leader told the Dawn that the party had decided that Zardari would not contest the by-elections but a formal decision would be taken on May 6, the last date for filing nominations. "I think he will not be a candidate," the PPP leader said.
Though former premier Sharif has not yet taken a formal decision yet on contesting the by-polls, it is believed that he will not be a candidate if Zardari decides to keep out of the by-elections.