–Fawad Chaudhry says govt decided not to invite Opp leaders ‘as some of them are either in jail or out on bail’
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday said opposition parties were not considered for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s banquet as their leaders are either in jail or out on bail.
On Thursday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had decided not to invite opposition leaders at the official banquet to be hosted for the crown prince at the Prime Minister’s House on Sunday.
“How can we invite them [opposition leaders] to the event, their main leaders are either behind bars or out on bail,” Fawad said in a tweet. He added that none of their leaders are “of the stature to attend such an event.”
Fawad said there is a dearth of a real opposition in Pakistan which is detrimental to the country’s politics.
اپوزیشن رہنماؤں کو عشائیے پر کیا بلائیں ان کے مرکزی رہنما بدعنوانی کے مقدموں میں یاجیل ہیں یا ضمانتوں پر ہیں یا شامل تفتیش ہیں جو باقی ہیں وہ اس قد کے ہی نہیں ، انھیں بلانا نہ بلانا برابر ہے۔۔۔ سنجیدہ اپوزیشن کا نہ ہونا ایک سیاسی بحران ہے آگے جا کے کوئ نئ لیڈرشپ ابھرے تو ابھرے
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) February 16, 2019
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari have not been invited to the dinner.
While it may be noted that the move comes amid tensions soaring between the government and 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. Fifty 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 government’s deteriorating relationship with the opposition was also a reason for not inviting its leaders.
“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,” he quipped.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb 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.