ISLAMABAD: Even as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is trying to unite opposition parties, the latter are expected to stay away from Imran Khan’s proposed rally outside Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s residence in Raiwind to protest against his alleged corruption.

Leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) told Dawn on Sunday that they had no plans to participate in any protest outside the prime minister’s residence.

“We will never support the idea of staging a demonstration outside the residence of any opponent,” Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah said.

He said the PPP had staged a walkout from the lower house last week on the PTI’s call for a protest against the speaker, but his party had nothing to do with the PTI’s proposed rally and sit-in.

Other opposition leaders expressed dissatisfaction over a ‘callous’ behaviour of Imran Khan after his last speech in the National Assembly.

PPP, ANP, QWP feel slighted by Imran Khan’s ‘snub’ following NA walkout

Opposition parties had walked out of the lower house on Thursday in support of Mr Khan’s claim that Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had acted in a partisan way by forwarding references against opposition leaders to the Election Commission of Pakistan while rejecting those filed against the prime minister and members of his family.

Sources privy to discussions among opposition leaders told Dawn that they were unhappy that after Mr Khan walked out of the assembly, he did not stop to meet leaders of other parties and made a beeline for the press podium outside Parliament House.

Khursheed Shah spoke in the house following Mr Khan’s fiery speech and then led members of his party in a walkout against the speaker in support of the PTI’s call. Other parties such as the ANP and the QWP followed suit.

But rather than greeting them, Mr Khan opted to hold a press conference on his own and then left without saying a word of gratitude to leaders of other parties who had supported him.

QWP leader Aftab Ahmed Sherpao told Dawn that while his party had joined the opposition leader in their joint walkout from the lower house, it had done so in compliance with the unanimous decision made by opposition parties. “But we were disappointed when Imran Khan did not meet us after the walkout,” he said.

Rejecting the idea of joining the PTI’s protest in Raiwind, Mr Sherpao said that his party stood with the PPP and the PTI as far as the opposition’s efforts within parliament were concerned.

“We have not been contacted by the PTI [for participation in the rally] so far and even if we are invited, we will not go,” he said. “We think it is unbecoming [of political opponents] to go to somebody’s house to protest.”

The QWP leader added that his party believed that the Panamagate issue should be resolved in parliament not on the streets.

“We are sticking to our stance that a commission should be formed to decide the fate of those named in the Panama Papers leaks,” he said.

ANP spokesperson Zahid Khan said that his party respected the sanctity of the four walls of one’s residence, adding that they would never support the idea of any agitation outside anyone’s residence.

Asked about the PTI decision to invite opposition parties for consultation on the proposed rally, he said: “We have neither been contacted nor will we take part in the rally.”

He also said that his party had joined the walkout against the speaker on the call of the opposition leader, not the PTI.

In a statement issued on Sunday, PTI’s Naeemul Haq said that the party would formally invite other opposition parties to take part in its Raiwind rally after Eid.

At one time, the PPP and the PTI seemed to be on the same page regarding the Panama Papers controversy, and the two sides expressed their intention to take to the streets — if they did not get justice — several times during their meetings on the issue.

Their closeness to each other continued for months as opposition parties held several meetings on the issue of the Panamagate commission and its terms of reference.

On June 26, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari warned the government of street agitation if the joint opposition’s demand for an inquiry into Panamagate was not accepted.

In the same vein, the PPP is now planning its own series of rallies and public meetings in Punjab, to be led by Mr Bhutto-Zardari, at the end of this month or in the first week of October.

Khursheed Shah told Dawn that the party was planning public meetings to protest against PM Sharif’s alleged role in corruption and money laundering.

Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which had joined the PTI’s sit-in outside Parliament House in 2014 -- and the two parties held rallies in Lahore and Rawalpindi on the same day earlier this month -- has already distanced itself from the PTI’s Raiwind rally.

Published in Dawn September 12th, 2016



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