ISLAMABAD, June 13: Leaders of the ruling coalition decided at a meeting held at the presidency on Wednesday to stay away from the controversy involving chief justice’s son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar.

“The meeting decided that no coalition party should get involved in the controversy,” Haji Adeel of the Awami National Party (ANP) said.

The meeting was jointly presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

According to sources, the leaders discussed their plan for the coming election and the situation in the country, including the Arsalan scandal.

President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar did not comment on the deliberations on the issue.

He just said: “The meeting also discussed and reviewed the developments that have taken place in the country during this week.”

President Zardari asked the coalition partners not to issue statements on the matter, the sources said.

“It is a matter between two individuals and why should we become a party to it,” Haji Adeel said.

Replying to a question about allegations that the president had a role in the charges levelled by property tycoon Malik Riaz, the ANP leader said: “Neither the president nor the prime minister has any link with the case and this has also been stated by Malik Riaz in his press conference on Tuesday.”

He, however, said the Arsalan-Riaz case would go on for some time and would have multiple dimensions.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Afrasiab Khattak, Haider Abbas Rizvi, Babar Khan Ghouri, Mir Israrullah Zehri, Abbas Khan Afridi and Munir Khan Orakzai also attended the meeting.

The sources said the parties vowed to remain united and contest the next general elections together under a seat adjustment arrangement.

The issue of local bodies elections also came under discussion.

The president briefed the meeting on his recent visit to Beijing for attending the SCO summit and his talks with leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and China.

He said Pakistan had offered to host an international conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on the issue of narcotics. He also said that he would soon visit Russia.

Prime Minister Gilani briefed the meeting on his visit to Quetta and steps taken to redress the grievances of the people of Balochistan.

He also briefed the coalition partners on the budget and the circumstances in which it had been presented.

The spokesman said the coalition partners described the budget as balanced and the best possible in the prevailing circumstances.

They endorsed the policy of strengthening regional partnership as an important facet of the foreign policy.

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