ISLAMABAD: In the face of criticism of the decision to boycott Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s address to the joint session of parliament, both from inside and outside the party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has decided to reconsider the move.
Talking to Dawn here on Monday, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the party had decided to reconsider the decision at the request of Turkish Ambassador Sadik Babur Girgin.
Mr Qureshi said that a three-member party delegation led by him had called on the Turkish ambassador on Monday afternoon to apprise him of the background of the party’s decision to boycott the Turkish president’s address to the joint sitting.
Party MNAs Shafqat Mehmood and Munazza Hassan were the other two members of the delegation.
PTI convenes parliamentary party meeting today
Mr Qureshi said they told the ambassador that the party had great respect for the Turkish president and that the party had announced the boycott due to domestic reasons.
He said they told the ambassador that the PTI considered Turkey Pakistan’s “sincere friend” and a brother Islamic state and had great respect for the Turkish president.
He said the delegation informed Mr Girgin about the party’s viewpoint on the Panamagate issue currently being heard by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.
According to Mr Qureshi, the Turkish envoy told them that he was fully aware of the country’s political situation since he also read newspapers. He said the Turkish ambassador had requested them to reconsider the decision in the larger interest of the relations between the two countries.
Mr Qureshi said that he later informed Mr Khan about the party delegation’s meeting with the ambassador and about his request. Mr Khan, he said, had agreed to reconsider the decision.
The PTI leader said Mr Khan had convened a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group after the hearing of the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court on Tuesday for consultations.
The PTI had on Saturday announced that its parliamentarians would stay away from the joint session of parliament which would be addressed by the visiting Turkish president.
The party had declared that it could not attend the joint sitting which would be held under a “controversial prime minister” who was facing corruption charges.
The decision taken at a meeting of the PTI’s newly formed ‘strategy committee’ was criticised not only by political opponents, but also by party leaders. A number of PTI parliamentarians expressed their resentment and anger over the abrupt decision which the party leadership had taken without taking them into confidence.
These PTI lawmakers also expressed their anger over the fact that such a major decision had been taken by a so-called “media strategy com-mittee”, which had actually been formed to formulate the party’s response to the day-to-day hearings of the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court and to respond to the statements of the government ministers over the issue.
Some of the MNAs said that they even did not see any logic in continuing the boycott of the National Assembly after the acceptance of one of the party’s demands that the prime minister present himself for accountability, adding that if the party could cancel its protest after start of the hearing of the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court, then there seemed to be no logic in continuing the boycott of parliament.
A PTI MNA on Monday welcomed the party leadership’s decision to reconsider the move, saying “it’s better late than never”. He also expressed his pleasure over Mr Khan’s decision to finally convene the parliamentary party meeting to discuss the issue related to parliament.
The MNA said he was happy that finally Mr Khan, who is often criticised by opposition parties for taking solo flights on national issues and is known for making major decisions without intra-party consultations, had realised the importance of the parliamentary group.
Mr Qureshi admitted that the leadership had taken the decision without formally contacting the party MNAs and senators due to paucity of time.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2016