ISLAMABAD: The latest exchange of barbs between the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the two main opposition parties, has further diminished the chances of the opposition getting united on the Panama leaks issue ahead of Imran Khan’s planned protests in Islamabad.

Senior leader of the PTI Shah Mehmood Qureshi says the party has no plans of formally contacting or inviting any other opposition party, including the PPP, for its planned anti-government protests after Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister and PPP Senator Saeed Ghani in a statement declared Imran Khan “a political blackmailer”.

Talking to Dawn on Saturday, Mr Qureshi said they were not inviting the political parties for its planned agitation as the parties would find excuses to avoid it. “We are inviting the masses as the rest will find excuses,” he said.

Mr Qureshi, who served as the foreign minister in the previous PPP government, claimed that there was division within the PPP as a number of party leaders, including young chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, supported the PTI’s strategy, but former president Asif Ali Zardari and a few leaders from Sindh were reluctant to join any anti-government movement as they feared going into early elections.

Presently, he said, the PPP seemed to be inclined towards the PML-N government.

When asked if the PTI planned to contact its allies like the Jamaat-i-Islami, Mr Qureshi said the party this time had given a call to the masses and those wishing to see across-the-board accountability would join hands with the PTI.

The PTI leader said the people would themselves be able to identify those who wanted to take the Panama Papers issue to its logical conclusion and those who only wanted to discuss it in TV talk shows.

When contacted, PPP’s Saeed Ghani refuted Mr Qureshi’s claim that the PPP was divided on the issue. He said that difference of opinion could not be termed a division.

Mr Ghani criticised Mr Khan for taking a solo flight on the Panama issue. He said the PTI’s unclear strategy was in fact strengthening the Nawaz government.

The PPP leader said the PTI itself had divided opinion over the issue which was evident from the fact that Imran Khan had himself admitted that a majority of the PTI lawmakers were against the boycott of the joint sitting of parliament, but he had announced it without caring for them.

Mr Ghani lashed out at Mr Khan for reportedly calling Mr Zardari a “tax thief”, saying the PTI chairman was always seen surrounded by “tax evaders” who were known as his “ATM machines”.

Mr Ghani said the PPP would not become part of Imran Khan’s political agenda that would put the democratic system in danger.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2016

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