ISLAMABAD: The Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has decided to boycott Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s address to the joint session of parliament, to be held next week.

The decision was made by the “party leadership” at a meeting held at the residence of chairman Imran Khan in Banigala on Saturday.

Speaking to Dawn after the meeting, PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the party had decided it would not attend a joint session held under a “controversial” prime minister who was facing charges of corruption.

Mr Erdogan is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan for a two-day official visit next week. The government plans to convene a special joint sitting of parliament on Nov 17 so the Turkish president can address lawmakers.

Mr Qureshi said the PTI considered Turkey a “sincere friend” of the country and a brother Islamic state. He also said the party had great respect for the Turkish president.

However, the PTI leader said his party had a clear perspective on the Panamagate case, currently being heard by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

Mr Qureshi, who served as foreign minister during the last PPP government, said he had been trying to contact the Turkish ambassador in Islamabad, seeking an appointment for a meeting between Mr Erdogan and the PTI leadership.

“We want to pay a courtesy call under Imran Khan on the Turkish president during his stay in the country,” he said, adding that the party would inform the visiting dignitary of their decision to stay away from parliament and discuss prospects for improved ties between Turkey and Pakistan.

He said the party decided to boycott the joint session because of the prime minister and not Mr Erdogan, and the party would continue to boycott parliament until the SC announced a decision in the Panama Papers case.

In response to a question, Mr Qureshi said the party, at present, only decided to boycott the National Assembly sessions, and its senators would continue to participate in sessions of the upper house. But, he said, PTI senators would not attend the joint parliamentary session convened for the Turkish president.

Sources in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz told Dawn the party would attempt to persuade the PTI’s leadership to reconsider its boycott of the joint session as a “goodwill gesture” and prevent possible embarrassment to the government during the Turkish president’s visit.

According to them, the PML-N leadership is not very optimistic that the PTI will reconsider its decision.

When asked to comment, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed told Dawn that while he was not aware of his party’s official stance on the matter, the party could rethink its strategy in the coming days.

Meanwhile, according to an official statement issued by the PTI’s central media department, the party leadership condemned the government during the meeting for allegedly attempting to sweep the news leaks issue under the carpet through a “pocket (inquiry) commission”.

PTI leaders during the meeting vowed to take the Panamagate and the news leaks issues to their logical conclusion.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2016

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