–Sources say decision to not invite opposition leaders made keeping in view ‘limited space’ at venue
–Fawad Ch says Opp’s ‘immature attitude another reason for ignoring leaders at dinner’
–PML-N says not concerned about such trivial matters while PPP criticises govt’s ‘shallow attitude’
ISLAMABAD: In yet another step away from parliamentary traditions, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has ditched leaders of the opposition parties from the official banquet to be hosted in the honour of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aka MBS.
According to sources, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari have not been invited to the dinner which will be held at the Prime Minister’s House during MBS’s two-day visit to the country.
While it may be noted that the move comes amid tensions soaring between the government and the opposition as well as skirmishes in the parliament, sources informed Pakistan Today that the top opposition parliamentarians had not been invited due to “limited space” at the venue.
“Only some 80 guests can be served at the PM’s House. 50 of them are a part of the Saudi Arabian delegation while others include key civil and military officials,” they said.
Sources added that the government had also not invited a majority of cabinet members because they couldn’t have been accommodated due to the lack of space.
“It is not about political traditions. We wanted to invite everyone to send a message that the country is united to welcome the Saudi crown prince. However, limited space forced us to ditch opposition leaders and a couple of cabinet members,” sources said.
When contacted, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the matter was yet to be decided. “Will be able to make a confirmation later tonight,” he said.
Asked if the government’s deteriorating relationship with the opposition was also a reason for not inviting its leaders, the minister said it was partially true. “It is true that the opposition’s immature attitude is another reason for ignoring them at the banquet. Moreover, the Saudi leadership is not at as good terms with the opposition as the opposition leaders try to portray.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, on the other hand, said her party would not show any agitation over the government’s attitude. “I won’t comment on this trivial issue and the party is not concerned about such cheap matters,” she said.
PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyar Bokhari said the government’s immature attitude had damaged the cause of Pakistan as the state would be “misrepresented at the banquet dinner”.
“The crown prince is not Imran Khan’s personal guest but that of the state. This is an immature act and the attitude of the government is against political traditions,” he said. The PPP leader further said the “shallow attitude” of the prime minister reflected the short-sighted approach of his government.
“We will see if we need to raise this issue at some parliamentary forum or not. But this attitude has further exposed the government’s immature approach,” he said.