–Zardari says ‘union has taken place’ after attending lunch meeting hosted by Shehbaz Sharif for Opp leaders
–Shehbaz says committee will be formed to devise joint strategy on all issues, including extension to military courts
–Bilawal says ‘mini-budget, military courts & new COD [Charter of Democracy]’ discussed in meeting
ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties in the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday decided to form a committee with representation from all groups to devise a joint strategy on various issues, including a second extension in the tenure of military courts.
The decision was taken at a meeting of opposition leaders hosted by NA Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif over lunch in his chamber at Parliament House.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sherry Rehman and Naveed Qamar were present during the meeting. Also in attendance were Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) MNAs Maulana Asad Mehmood and Maulana Abdul Wasay, Awami National Party leader Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Balochistan National Party-Mengal representatives and other leaders.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Shehbaz said the opposition leaders had decided to form a committee to devise a joint strategy and deal with the government on various issues.
The committee, which according to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president, will have representation from all opposition parties, will also be responsible for holding negotiations with the government on the issue of an extension in the tenure of military courts. “The combined opposition will adopt whatever path is in the national interest,” he added.
The leader of the opposition also criticised the “worst incompetence” of the PTI government and once again termed as “cronyism” the government’s move to award the Mohmand Dam contract to a consortium led by Descon, which is owned by a sitting adviser to the prime minister.
Shehbaz also lamented that “dishonourable” terms such as “thieves” are used for opposition leaders.
“Inflation, unemployment and other important issues are getting out of hand and no foreign investors are ready to invest in the country,” he concluded.
‘THE UNION HAS TAKEN PLACE’:
Responding to a journalist’s question after the meeting ended, PPP’s Zardari claimed that the opposition parties have resolved all bilateral issues and agreed to form a joint committee.
Meanwhile, asked whether the opposition parties would come together in the shape of an alliance, Zardari responded: “The union HAS taken place.”
Zardari’s stance was seconded by his son and PPP’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
Bilawal said the opposition’s human and democratic rights were under attack from all sides by the government, but the opposition leaders were “not ready to compromise” on these two rights.
“Positive meeting of opposition parties today. PMLN, PPP, ANP, MMA & BNP agree on 3 points; no compromise on economic rights, human rights & democratic rights of people of Pakistan. Committee formed to work out future course of action. Mini-budget, military courts & new COD discussed,” said Bilawal in a tweet.
Positive meeting of opposition parties today.PMLN,PPP,ANP,MMA &BNP agree on 3 points; no compromise on economic rights, human rights & democratic rights of people of Pakistan. Committee formed to work out future course of action. Mini-budget, military courts & new COD discussed.
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) January 15, 2019
Shehbaz Sharif had earlier welcomed Zardari to the meeting with a hug, as the two main opposition parties increasingly appear to join hands to give the PTI-led government a tough time.
A day earlier, on the opening day of the National Assembly’s new session, when Zardari entered the hall amidst desk-thumping by the opposition members, Shehbaz had gone to him and shook his hand.
A joint communiqué issued following the meeting said that the participants reviewed the country’s internal, economic and political situation. The meeting resolved that “the PTI government has become a threat to existence, federation of Pakistan”.
The meeting resolved that during the five months, the federal government has failed to handle the challenges faced by the country. The statement also referred to the unprecedented price hike due to what it called the 35 per cent devaluation of rupee price and claimed that the government’s policies had become a threat for Pakistan.
The meeting also condemned the PTI government’s disregard for provincial autonomy, the federating units, interference in the democratic and internal affairs of provinces and attempts to topple provincial governments and declared it a looming threat to the federation of Pakistan.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Lower House session was disrupted again after the opposition lodged a protest against the deputy speaker’s decision not to hold a re-vote when an opposition MNA introduced a bill pertaining to the quota of judges in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Soon after the boycott, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to criticise the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts. The opposition had walked out of the NA on Monday after Shehbaz Sharif accused the treasury benches of using foul language.
Does democracy mean immunity from corruption of democratically elected political leaders? It seems for them being elected is a license to plunder the country. https://t.co/POpMhLg7L1
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 15, 2019
The prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was “the only function they (opposition) intend to perform”.
He claimed that walkouts are used as “pressure tactics” to “seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)”.