Opposition parties in the National Assembly on Tuesday decided to form a committee to devise a joint opposition strategy on various issues, including a second extension in the tenure of military courts.
The decision was taken at a meeting of opposition leaders hosted by Leader of Opposition in the NA Shahbaz Sharif over lunch in his chamber at Parliament House.
Speaking to reporters after the nearly two-hour-long meeting, Shahbaz said the opposition leaders had decided to form a committee to devise a joint strategy and deal with the government on various issues.
The committee, which according to Shahbaz will have representation from all opposition parties, will also be responsible for holding negotiations with the government on the issue of an extension in the tenure of military courts. "The combined opposition will adopt whatever path is in the national interest," he added.
The leader of the opposition also criticised the "worst incompetence" of the PTI government and once again termed as "cronyism" the government's move to award the Mohmand dam contract to a consortium led by Descon, which he alleged was owned by a sitting adviser to the prime minister.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — who attended the meeting along with his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari — in his remarks said the opposition's human and democratic rights were under attack from all sides by the government, but the opposition leaders were "not ready to compromise" on these two rights.
"The opposition has today decided on a very good strategy to form a committee and have a joint opposition inside the parliament as well as outside," the PPP chairman said.
Meanwhile, asked whether the opposition parties would come together in the shape of an alliance, Zardari responded: "The union HAS taken place."
Shahbaz, the PML-N president, had earlier welcomed Zardari to the meeting with a hug, as the two main opposition parties increasingly appear to join hands to give the PTI-led government a tough time.
Also in attendance were PPP's Sherry Rehman and Naveed Qamar, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) MNAs Maulana Asad Mehmood and Maulana Abdul Wasay, Awami National Party leader Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Balochistan National Party-Mengal representatives and other leaders.
An elaborate menu was on offer at the luncheon, including seafood, the traditional dishes of qourma and pulao, homemade vegetables and dessert.
A day earlier, on the opening day of the National Assembly’s new session, when Zardari entered the hall amidst desk-thumping by the opposition members, Shahbaz had gone to him and shook his hand.
NA session suspended after ruckus
Earlier on Tuesday, business in the lower house was disrupted again after the opposition lodged a strong protest against the deputy speaker's decision not to hold a re-vote when an opposition MNA introduced a bill pertaining to the quota of judges in the Islamabad High Court.
JUI-F MNA Aliya Kamran had moved a bill seeking an increase in the number of judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) from six to 10, and a quota accommodating all the provinces on IHC benches.
Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari opposed the bill, but Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri held a verbal vote and subsequently rejected the bill after it appeared to have been voted against.
Kamran then challenged the vote and the deputy speaker ordered a headcount. The headcount revealed that 96 MNAs opposed the bill, while 94 were in favour of it. Therefore, the NA decided against the move.
Members of the opposition gathered in front of Suri's dais, asking him to order another vote on the bill but the deputy speaker rejected the demand and suspended House proceedings.
The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to lash out at the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts. The opposition had walked out of the NA yesterday after opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif accused the treasury benches of using foul language.
The prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was "the only function they (opposition) intend to perform".
He claimed that walkouts are used as "pressure tactics" to "seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)".