ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party — are set to play an ARD-like opposition role in parliament as they have agreed on formulation of a “coordinated joint strategy”, if the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf manages to form its government at the Centre.
The broad-based understanding on cooperation was reached during the first direct meeting between the leaders of the PML-N and PPP after the July 25 general elections here on Sunday.
“It was an ice-breaker,” said PML-N’s Mushahid Hussain Sayed, when asked about the outcome of the meeting held at the residence of former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.
“It was a very good meeting and you can call it a meeting of the minds,” the PML-N leader said, adding that there was complete unanimity of views between the two parties that the “July 25 elections have been stolen”.
Fazl wants joint opposition to prevent PTI from forming govt
He said both sides were of the view that they should “completely reject” the election results and should adopt “a coordinated joint opposition strategy” to give a tough time to the Imran Khan-led PTI government while staying inside parliament.
He said the two parties would meet again on Monday as the PML-N had told the PPP representatives that it would inform them about its decision on a proposal of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) to boycott parliament. He said the PPP delegation had informed the PML-N that they were not in favour of boycotting parliament.
The PPP delegation comprised Yousuf Raza Gilani, Sherry Rehman, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Farhatullah Babar while the PML-N side was represented by Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Ayaz Sadiq, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Sardar Mahtab Ahmed Khan.
Later, the PPP delegation also held talks with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and tried to persuade him to reverse his decision of boycotting parliament.
Talking to Dawn, Sherry Rehman said they had urged the Maulana not to boycott parliament because by “vacating the space we will be providing a walkover” to the PTI.
She said the parties had had a bad experience of boycotting the elections or parliament in the past, adding that the PPP had even questioned the credibility of the 2013 elections and the party leadership had dubbed them “RO elections”, yet they had participated fully in the parliamentary proceedings to strengthen democracy.
“We are very clear that democratic forces while condemning the polls have all the rights to sit on the seats for which they had fought very hard,” she said.
In reply to a question, Ms Rehman said consultations among the parties would continue and they were expected to have more sessions.
Both the PPP and PML-N leaders said that so far they had not discussed any strategy for the upcoming elections for key parliamentary offices of the speaker and deputy speaker, adding that such minute modalities would be discussed at a later stage.
Although the PTI has emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly after the polls, the final results issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), however, shows that the party is still short of numbers to form its government independently. According to the results, the PTI has bagged 115 general seats — 22 short of simple majority — whereas the PML-N and PPP have won 64 and 43 seats, respectively.
Sources in the PPP and PML-N told Dawn that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who also heads the MMA, had shown flexibility and might reverse the decision taken at a multi-party conference to boycott the oath-taking session of parliament. They said the Maulana had suggested that they should jointly field candidates for the parliamentary offices and make every effort to prevent the PTI from forming its government at the Centre.
Since the MMA has 12 seats, the combined seats of the PPP, PML-N and MMA become 117 — two more than the PTI’s number of seats.
The sources said that a joint meeting of the leaders of the three parties was also expected to be held on Monday (today).
Last time it was after the 2002 elections when the PPP and PML-N had forged an anti-government alliance — Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) — under Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. The MMA was another opposition alliance in parliament at that time.
The members of the ARD and MMA had given a tough time to the military government of Gen Pervez Musharraf who had picked Zafarullah Jamali as the prime minister. Over 100 members of the two alliances kept parliament non-functional for a record almost one year through noisy protest against the Legal Framework Order of the military regime, forcing the government to hold talks with the opposition.
The issue was resolved when the MMA entered into an agreement with the military-led civilian regime and parliament approved the controversial 17th Constitution Amendment giving indemnity to the acts of Gen Musharraf, including the amendments he had made to the Constitution.
Political analysts and experts believe that the new parliament will be a reflection of the 2002 assembly when the government had to face a tough opposition in the form of the ARD and MMA.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2018