ISLAMABAD, Aug 20: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) on Wednesday once again joined hands in parliament to protest against the Legal Framework Order (LFO).

Speaking at a joint news conference at the assembly cafeteria after staging a walkout from the NA session, the leaders of both the major opposition alliances declared that they will not compromise on the principle that no individual, but parliament alone, was empowered to amend the Constitution.

They expressed the view that the LFO could not become part of the Constitution unless it was brought to parliament for debate and getting its assent.

Earlier, the leaders of both the alliances held an informal meeting at Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s apartment in which both sides agreed to unite in protest against the LFO.

The meeting was attended by Makhdoom Amin Fahim of PPP, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of PML-N, and Liaqat Baloch and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of MMA.

The ARD and MMA leaders declared that both sides had decided to stand united against the LFO, and that they were of unanimous view that the government was not serious in taking the talks to a logical conclusion.

Speaking to reporters, PPP’s Makhdoom Amin Fahim said the elected parliament “cannot be run under the dictation of a dictator and we cannot accept the right of one person to effect any changes in the Constitution.”

He said all the opposition parties were united on this point and they will not change their stance nor will they compromise on principles.

He termed the summoning of the house without consulting the opposition an extra-constitutional act.

MMA’s Liaqat Baloch said although it was the right of the majority party to convene the session of the assembly, in the present case it was summoned on the directive of Gen Musharraf, and that the whole manner of summoning the house appeared haphazard.

He said the religio-political alliance had accepted the invitation for dialogue on the prime minister’s assurance that it will be on the LFO but the leaders of the ruling party like Chaudhry Shujaat tried to sabotage the process by issuing controversial statements about the settlement of the issue of the president’s uniform.

Mr Baloch said: “We have come to the conclusion after several rounds of talks that the government was not serious about settling political issues through dialogue. Rather, it was buying time.”

He said the opposition parties were united against the LFO from day one and they will remain so against the federal government’s encroachment on provincial autonomy and will not compromise on this matter.

He declared that “our struggle will continue till the dictatorship is defeated.”

PML-N’s Javed Hashmi said: “Our protest was consistent with our stand which we had jointly taken ten months ago against the LFO.” He said the MMA was also in total agreement with the ARD on the constitutional issues and “we are determined not to give up our struggle till supremacy of parliament is restored.”

He said: “We have boycotted the assembly proceedings today by mutual agreement, and the strategy of protest will most likely be changed in the coming days as things take shape.”

Mr Hashmi added: “Our struggle was against a few generals who were aspiring to give the army a permanent role in the government but we are alive to the national aspirations and will never allow such a proposition to become a reality.”

He alleged that the generals wanted that the army remained in power for ever which was unacceptable for the nation and “we will continue our struggle to foil such attempts.”

He pointed out what he called the “duplicity of the government” which had announced Rs50 million only for the worst flood-affected people of Sindh while it had doled out Rs180 million to Rawalpindi alone for development.

He said the government had no courage to seek compensation from the United States for the Pakistan army soldiers martyred by its army’s firing on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and that the interests of Pakistan were being sold to protect the interests of one person.

He asked the generals to surrender power before the people or they will be forced to do so. He said the pressure on the government will be mounted with each passing day.

MMA’s Hafiz Hussain Ahmed challenged those who had summoned the NA on the directive of Gen Musharraf to hold a joint session of parliament and dare ask the president to address it.

He alleged that the privilege of the house was breached by convening it in such haste as the MNAs belonging to the far-flung areas of Balochistan and the NWFP could not reach the federal capital on the first day.

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