ISLAMABAD: A delegation of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, led by Pervez Khattak, meets outgoing National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq at his official residence on Sunday.
ISLAMABAD: A delegation of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, led by Pervez Khattak, meets outgoing National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq at his official residence on Sunday.

ISLAMABAD: Just a day before the inaugural session of the National Assembly, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in a reconciliatory mood reached out on Sunday to the two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — with the desire to establish a “working relationship” while recognising the parliamentary might of the joint opposition.

A PTI delegation comprising Asad Qaiser, Fawad Chaudhry, Pervez Khattak, Shafqat Mehmood and Omar Ayub Khan first called on the outgoing speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N and then met PPP leaders in Islamabad.

Editorial: The opposition’s role

The PTI delegation later also visited Balochistan House to discuss the government formation with Balochistan National Party (BNP) chief Akhtar Mengal.

PTI information secretary Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that they had met the leaders of the opposition parties on the directive of PTI chairman Imran Khan, as they knew that it would be difficult for them to run the affairs of the parliament smoothly without the cooperation of the opposition. He said the PTI knew that it would have to take the opposition parties along in the house to carry out its legislative agenda.

PPP refuses to withdraw candidate for NA speaker; inaugural session today

Responding to a question, the PTI leader confirmed that both the PML-N and the PPP raised the issue of the alleged rigging in the recent general election. “We have asked all the parties to come up with their complaints about the election process and the PTI is ready to resolve the matter,” he said.

He claimed that PTI’s gesture was appreciated by leaders of both the PPP and the PML-N.

Another purpose of the meetings was to formally invite the leadership of the opposition parties to the oath-taking ceremony on Aug 18. He said the PTI delegation delivered invitation for Shahbaz Sharif to Mr Sadiq and for PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Zardari to the PPP leaders including Syed Khursheed Shah and leader of opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman.

Sources in the PTI told Dawn that the party had requested Mr Shah to withdraw from the race for the office of the National Assembly speaker. However, they said, the PPP refused to do so.

Mr Shah is a joint candidate of 11 opposition parties.

The sources said the PTI leaders were also interested to know about the strategy of the opposition parties, which had announced to lodge a strong protest inside and outside the parliament during the inaugural session of the National Assembly against the alleged rigging in the polls.

When contacted, Ms Rehman said they had told the PTI that the PPP would play a positive and a responsible role of the opposition in the parliament. She said they had told the PTI leaders that they would not do the opposition the way the PTI had done in the previous assembly though “we are committed to play the role of a strong opposition”.

PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said no decision regarding the participation of the party’s chairman or co-chairman in the prime minister’s oath taking ceremony had been taken so far. He said they would take a decision after discussing the matter within the party.

Talking to the reporters after their meeting with PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, the PTI delegation said they wanted to move forward with “mutual consultation” and wanted to develop a “working relationship” with all the parliamentary parties.

PTI’s Asad Qaiser, who has been nominated as the candidate for the office of the NA speaker, said the PTI wished to cooperate with other parties in order to counter economic and other challenges being faced by the country.

Mr Chaudhry said the PTI government would try to remove reservations held by opposition parties over the July 25 elections. He said the PPP and the PML-N were the “most respectable” parties of the country. He claimed that the PTI welcomed their decision of using the parliamentary forum for raising their concerns.

The PTI information secretary called for unity among the parties for tackling the serious economic and security issues.

About the PML-N’s complaints against the accountability process, Mr Chaudhry said the process would continue in accordance with the law and he believed that no party should oppose it.

Ayaz Sadiq, who will administer oath to the newly-elected MNAs today (Monday), said the proceedings of the house would be held in accordance with the law and Constitution.

Later, PML-N’s spokesperson and former information minister Marriyam Aurangzeb declared that the PTI delegation had met Mr Sadiq in his capacity as the outgoing speaker and not as a PML-N representative.

TV channels quoted her as saying that so far no meeting had taken place between the PTI and the PML-N leaders.

Responding to Ms Aurangzeb’s remarks, Mr Chaudhry said they had met Mr Sadiq in both capacities as the NA speaker as well as PML-N leader. He said they had delivered the invitation for prime minister’s oath-taking ceremony to Mr Sadiq for PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif.

After the issuance of notifications of the returned candidates on the reserved seats for women and minorities by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday, the PTI has 158 members in the National Assembly.

The PTI has already nominated former speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Asad Qaiser for the office of NA speaker and he would face Syed Khursheed Shah of the PPP, a joint candidate of the 11-party alliance, Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections.

Similarly, PTI chairman Imran Khan will be contesting against PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif for the office of the prime minister.

PPP discusses strategy

To discuss the strategy for Monday’s session of the National Assembly, a meeting of the parliamentary group of the PPP was held at Zardari House.

Sources said that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari asked the party members in the meeting to ensure their presence in the parliament and do issue-based politics. Mr Bilawal said that since he was going to the parliament for the first time, he wanted to see the party playing a role of positive opposition.

An official handout later issued by the PPP quoted the party chairman as telling the newly elected members of the National Assembly that the PPP was resolute in its ideology and its slogan: “We will fulfil the promise made by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to save Pakistan.”

The PPP would raise the issues of people in the parliament, he said, adding that the party would tread the path of democracy and continue to fight for the rights of people.

Addressing the gathering, former president Asif Zardari said the PPP would continue to strengthen democracy. He added that the PPP would follow its manifesto from the opposition benches. He said the party had achieved excellent results in Sindh and “now we need to focus on Punjab, KP and Balochistan”.

Mr Zardari said the PPP wanted southern parts of Punjab to develop and prosper. A separate province comprising areas of southern Punjab was PPP’s mission, he said.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2018

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