LONDON, July 8: The two-day Multi-Party Conference (MPC) concluded here on Saturday without causing any serious damage to the unity of the participating opposition political parties in the face of bitter disagreements over vital issues among some leading parties, as the conference in one voice asked General Pervez Musharraff to immediately resign to pave way for fair and free elections under a neutral caretaker government.
The MPC reached a consensus resolution called the ‘APC declaration’ after a four-hour delay during which leaders of a number of parties were seen trying to bring the PPP on board on the issue of resignation in case President Musharraf carried out his threat to get himself re-elected by the current assemblies and also to join a united front from which to launch agitation against the military-led government. The PPP succeeded in having its way, more or less.
And even during the time the resolution was being presented to the house, vociferous differences emerged between the MMA and the PPP on the issue of resignation as the wording of the clause on the matter had remained largely ambiguous.
It said the parties would strongly resist the election by the incumbent assemblies of General Musharaff for the office of the president of Pakistan through a collective action, including the use of the option of resignations from parliament and provincial assemblies.
Differences also emerged on the matters of joint electorate and women’s reserved seats as the MMA expressed its serious reservations on the wordings.
The relevant clause said: “To carry on the struggle within and outside parliament for the restoration of the 1973 Constitution as on October 12, 1999 before the military coup, with the provisions of joint electorate, minorities and women reserved seats on closed party list in Parliament, the lowering of the voting age, and the increase in seats in parliament. The Legal Framework Order of 2000 and the Seventeenth Constitution Amendment shall be repealed.”
It was also resolved to ensure the return of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and to resist any attempt on the part of the regime to prevent or take into custody the popular leadership on their return.
Another clause demanded immediate withdrawal of the reference against the Chief Justice of Pakistan and his reinstatement. “We further pledge to carry on the movement for the independence of the Judiciary while wholeheartedly supporting the legal fraternity and civil society in its struggle for rule of law.”
The declaration says that none of the participating parties will ever have any truck with the MQM and said it held General Musharaf, the governor of Sindh, the provincial government of Sindh, and the MQM responsible for the carnage carried out in Karachi on May 12 this year. It demanded an independent judicial inquiry by a judge of the Supreme Court to ascertain and identify the persons involved.
The conference condemned recent acts of terrorism in the UK. It also resolved to write a joint memorandum to the government of UK for initiating necessary legal proceedings against Altaf Hussain for his alleged role in incidents of terrorism in Pakistan.
The other clauses of the 15-point declaration are:
• The formation of a caretaker government of national consensus, in consultation with the opposition parties to hold free, fair and honest elections. Its members
will not contest the elections.
• The appointment of a neutral Chief Election Commissioner and members of the Election Commission in consultation with the opposition parties.
• The dissolution of local governments three months prior to the holding of the general elections.
• The caretaker government of national consensus shall appoint officers with no political affiliation in Election Commission, federal, provincial and district governments.
• Repeal of all discriminatory election laws, to ensure even playing fields and the implementation of fair election proposals.
• Implementation of the jointly agreed criteria for holding of fair and free elections.
• To keep under review the steps being taken to ensure free, fair and honest elections and to collectively through consensus take any decision which may include a boycott of elections in the extreme case at the appropriate time.
• To firmly resist collectively the machinations of the regime to postpone the general elections by imposing emergency or under any other pretext.
• To struggle collectively for the removal of dictatorship from Pakistan and confine the role of the armed forces to that prescribed in the Constitution of 1973. It demands immediate withdrawal of military personal from all civilian departments and posts. It demands closure of the political cells of all the military, security and intelligence agencies.
On the issue of Balochistan, the declaration demanded:
• that the army operation against innocent people of Balochistan should be stopped immediately.
• That all political workers and leaders be released immediately.
• The construction of cantonments and the deployment of police instead of the Leveis be stopped.
• The practice of enforced abductions should be immediately stopped.
The declaration said that
• The army operation against innocent people of tribal areas should be immediately stopped.
• Tribal areas should be cleared of all outside elements, pressures, and influences.
The conference resolved to review the current quantum of provincial autonomy and to develop a national consensus on the basis of federal principle to remove grievances of smaller provinces through a consensus.
The declaration also said: “We demand that the state stop with immediate effect the kidnapping of its citizens, and;
“Release immediately all those kidnapped by or through the state. In case of any substantive offence, to charge them before a competent Court of jurisdiction, allowing a defence counsel of their choice and access to family members.
“Release all political prisoners, including Javed Hashmi, Akhtar Mengal, Afaq Ahmad, Amir Khan, Allama Shabbir Hashmi, Mian Aslam and others.
“We reject the construction of the new GHQ in Islamabad because a country mired with poverty, unemployment and illiteracy can't afford such mega housing and real estate project costing over $4 billion in market value.
“We reject the Pemra Ordinance of June 4, 2007, while assuring all forms of the media in Pakistan of our fullest support in their struggle for freedom of media and reaffirm our commitment to the freedom of expression.”
According to the declaration, the conference resolved that “independent and sovereign foreign policy based on national interests should be pursued. The solution of Kashmir dispute should be found according to wishes and aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir”.
During the lunch break, two ambassadors from the G-7 countries called on the leaders attending the conference.
Those who took part in these parleys included former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, ARD chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, MMA’s president Qazi Hussain Ahmed, ANP leader Asfabndyar Wali Khan, MAKP chief Mahmood Khan Achekzai and Therik-i-Insanf’s chief Imran Khan.
The G-7 ambassadors were briefed about the political situation in Pakistan and the chaos that have erupted all around because of what they said mishandling of the manageable situations by President Musharraf and his single minded pre-occupation with getting himself elected from the out-going parliament..
The ambassadors reportedly closely questioned the MPC leaders on the Lal Masjid and Madrassa Hifza issue.