ISLAMABAD: The PPP’s leaders, who had so far been reluctant to join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s protests, believe that the government’s handling of the PIA crisis may lead to a larger cooperation between the two opposition parties outside parliament.

The main opposition PPP says that since PTI Chairman Imran Khan has started ‘behaving maturely’ and his party is now playing its role inside parliament, it cannot rule out the possibility of the two parties holding joint demonstrations.

“Imran Khan Sahab has realised that the PTI should play a role inside parliament. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility of joining the PTI on the streets,” the PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said while talking to Dawn here on Saturday.

According to PTI’s deputy parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the two parties have already started cooperation in parliament and he sees no harm in joining hands with the PPP outside too.

Display of unity

The two parties came closer in parliament when the government introduced a controversial tax amnesty scheme for traders in the National Assembly last month. After several meetings, leaders of all the opposition parties decided to adopt a joint strategy against the government inside parliament on public issues.

In a rare display of unity last week, the PPP, the PTI and other opposition parties submitted requisition notices to the National Assembly and Senate secretariats to convene sessions of the two houses to discuss the ongoing fiasco pertaining to the Pakistan International Airlines.

Mr Qureshi said the PTI had presented its new “charter of demands” on Saturday. “Now my question to the PPP leaders is if it is acceptable to them or not,” he said. The charter pertains to issues that have a direct impact on the life of the people, such as insufficient reduction in oil prices and imposition of new taxes in gas bills.

Mr Kaira said the PPP had always stood for the rights of the working class and would continue to extend its “traditional support” to PIA workers in their protest against the government’s plans to sell the national flag carrier.

The PPP leader alleged that the government had started using force and resorted to extreme steps, including “murdering” two PIA employees, adding that his party would go to any length to protect the workers’ rights.

He admitted that in the past, the PPP had reservations over joining hands with the PTI, but said that the way the government had been handling the PIA issue, “the situation may lead to a larger cooperation between the two parties in the future”.

Not everyone’s happy

Last week, the PPP held a demonstration against the Orange Line Metro Train Project in Lahore but did not allow PTI leaders to become part of ‘its show’.

Led by Lahore PPP president Samina Khalid Ghurki and information secretary Faisal Mir, the protesters shouted slogans against the Punjab government for depriving people of their houses and businesses and damaging the city’s heritage.

Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmoodur Rashid of the PTI faced embarrassment when a group of PPP workers did not allow him to join the demonstration.

Next day, the PPP’s provincial leaders contacted Mr Rashid and apologised over the incident, putting the blame on some “undisciplined” workers.

The two parties then managed to hold a joint protest in Lahore over the train project.

Sources in the PPP told Dawn that a number of PPP leaders and activists were unhappy over this act and were even considering staying away from the protests in the future.

A reversal of policy

In October, the PPP had not supported the PTI’s candidate, Shafqat Mehmood, in the election for the office of the National Assembly speaker and some of its members had even voted in favour of the PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

The PPP was not ready to support the PTI because of its previous role and “uncalled-for” criticism against the party and its leaders during the 126-day sit-in outside parliament.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2016

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