ARD expresses reservations about Govt-MMA talks

September 10, 2003

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ISLAMABAD, Sept 9: The ARD on Tuesday expressed reservations about MMA-government Lahore talks on the LFO and said it would give its opinion on the matter when and if the proposed constitutional package was presented in parliament for debate and assent.

ARD Parliamentary leader Javed Hashmi said: “We are not part of the on-going government-MMA negotiation process and we have not yet decided whether or not to join the process because all major political parties on the opposition benches differ with each other on the details of the LFO.”

The combined opposition also hinted at extending its protest to four provincial assemblies in the next phase to increase pressure on the government for an early end to the constitutional deadlock.

The MMA team comprising deputy secretary-general Liaqat Baloch and deputy parliamentary leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed briefed parliamentary groups of the entire opposition at the NA lobby for about one hour.

Talking to newsmen at a joint news conference, MMA parliamentary leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed said that the MMA negotiating team had made it clear to the government that there would be no more talks on the issue and it would insist on participation of all opposition parliamentary parties’ leaders in the proposed party heads’ meeting.

Interestingly, MMA Secretary-General Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who attended the current NA session for the first time on Monday, skipped the joint news conference on the second day running. He appears to be deliberately avoiding the press since his return from Indian sojourn in July last.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim is also conspicuous by his absence both in the opposition’s protest as well as joint news conference and he is represented by PPP Parliamentarians Secretary-General Raja Parvez Ashraf.

Mr Liaqat Baloch claimed that all opposition parliamentary groups were united on a one-point agenda to force the government to bring constitutional amendments in parliament and until then no piece of legislation, even if it had the backing of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, would be accepted as legal.

MMA deputy parliamentary leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed said Prime Minister Jamali, by assuring a group of women outside parliament that the Hudood ordinance issue would be settled, has tried to break the unity of the opposition.

He said that the MMA negotiating committee had completed its work and was waiting for the government to fulfil its promise to convene the party heads’ meeting immediately.

Raja Parvez Ashraf said the Opposition was united on one-point agenda that the amendments made through the LFO were not acceptable until ratified by parliament but added that each one of the opposition parties had different views on the details of the LFO. Mr Hashmi alleged that the Army Generals in power wanted to further consolidate military control over the government.