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LAHORE: The PML-N is satisfied with the “divergent agenda” reflected in a meeting of the “joint opposition” held in Islamabad.

“We’re quite satisfied that most of the parties that attended the meeting proved their sensibility to the developing situation and avoided supporting any political mayhem when the government needs to focus on the state of affairs in India-held Kashmir and the national development agenda,” a PML-N leader told Dawn.

Only a couple of parties, which are either unrepresented in parliament or are confined to Punjab, had stressed an aggressive anti-government policy, he said.

Appreciating the “pro-democracy” role of the other participants, the leader of the ruling party said the government would respond to them positively and try its best to accommodate their points of view in the terms of reference (ToR) for an investigation into the offshore holdings disclosed in the Panama Papers and on other issues.

The PML-Q, PAT, MWM and AML had been advocating for giving a tough time to the PML-N, but others, including the PTI, called for a adopting a “soft” course of action, one of the participants of the meeting said.

“The fears of a third force’s intervention leaving the political stakeholders in the lurch barred the opponents from going too far in the anti-government drive,” he commented, quoting the apprehensions expressed by many in the meeting.

He said that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah, while representing the ‘go soft’ advocates, claimed that during the 2014 sit-in the government had got nervous and had the (PPP-led) opposition not come to its rescue for the cause of democracy, it would have decided to call it a day.

Mr Shah called for a similar soft coupled with firm strategy of building pressure on the government on the Panama Papers issue both in and outside parliament while avoiding any “unconstitutional mishap”, as the PPP-led opposition this time would not be there to support the rulers.

“No hasty and emotional step should be taken that may result in damaging democracy,” he was quoted as arguing.

A PML-N leader, however, denied Mr Shah’s assertions, saying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could never think of quitting under any “illegal” and “illogical” pressure.

Sources said that most of the participants in the opposition meeting focused on their own agenda and set of complaints.

“If the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was insisting on taking up the Karachi situation, ‘victimisation’ of its workers and lack of powers for local bodies, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek wished to give priority to the Model Town incident of killing of its workers. Whereas, the Awami National Party and Qaumi Watan Party were complaining about Khyber Pakhtunkhwa being ignored in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”

The QWP, led by Aftab Sherpao, was also quoted as objecting to the formation of a joint action committee, arguing that it was not the mandate of the consultative meeting and such a step could be taken only from the platform of an alliance.

All the participants did agree on giving the government a deadline on the Panama Papers issue but did not agree on a date, the sources said.

They, however, claimed that the opposition was unanimous on not further amending the ToR it had framed.

They quoted Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan as saying that they had already accommodated amendments proposed by the government, even agreeing to the condition of omitting the name of the prime minister from terms of reference.

“The present (opposition-framed) ToR will be final.”

The participants agreed on convening a meeting of opposition parties but without deciding a date.

PML-Q’s Kamil Agha said the party’s chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was ready to host the meeting and whosoever wished could chair it.

The PAT also offered its platform on a three-point agenda: Model Town incident, ToR and the line of action against the government. The party invited all leaders to its Lahore headquarters for the purpose on July 31.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2016