–Shehbaz, Zardari and Fazl refuse to attend meeting citing ‘political engagements’
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Wednesday scrapped a planned briefing to the parliamentary leaders on the National Action Plan (NAP) scheduled for March 28, after the opposition parties snubbed the offer, citing “political engagements”.
It may be noted that the opposition leaders were not so keen to attend the briefing despite Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s efforts to court them.
Speaking to reporters in Multan on Sunday, Qureshi had urged Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for talks regarding the implementation of NAP at the place of his choosing. However, it failed to make any difference.
According to media reports, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif wrote a letter to the government, relaying his unavailability for the meeting.
Whereas, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman had communicated their unavailability to the government via telephone.
The spokesperson for the foreign minister reportedly said that the opposition leaders declined to attend due to their “political engagements”.
“Under these circumstances, due to the political considerations of opposition parties, the consultation will not be held,” the spokesperson added.
It is being reported that one of the purposes of the briefing was to convince the opposition lawmakers over the issue of the extension of the military courts.
The courts were established in 2015, in the aftermath of Army Public School (APS) attack that had killed over 140 people, mostly children, to carry out swift justice in cases pertaining to terrorism.
Last time, in 2017, the PPP initially opposed the extension in tenure but eventually supported the PML-N-moved amendment. The bill was passed overwhelmingly by the National Assembly.
However, this time it is PTI, which is on very poor terms with the opposition, given the initiation of accountability proceedings against the major politicians. And it needs a two-third majority to pass the bill. In addition, the government is already struggling with the formation of standing committees of the National Assembly.
Whereas, PPP is again opposing the bill. Its Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has publicly opposed any extension in the tenure of army-run courts. Bilawal had said he would vehemently oppose the extension of military courts as he had chided parliament for its role in renewing the courts’ tenure.
PML-N, on the other hand, has decided to keep mum over the issue for now. Its spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb in a TV show stated that the party hadn’t taken up the matter at that point.
In order to take the opposition on board, PM Imran Khan has constituted a two-member committee, comprising Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Defense Minister Pervez Khattak.
Both ministers will engage the members of the opposition parties on the issue by next week to get their consent and apprise the PM about the progress.
The military, however, says it is in government’s hands to extend the tenure.
ISPR Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor in a TV interview had said that the court disposed of 646 cases of total 717 since 2015.
“The military courts have awarded 345 convicts death sentences while 296 have been handed various sentences,” the spokesperson had said.