ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties have lashed out at the federal government for not inviting their leaders to the official reception to be hosted in honour of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) and termed it an undemocratic and un-parliamentary step.

The leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) questioned the logic that is being given by the government to keep the opposition away from the official engagements during the two-day visit of the Saudi crown prince and said they had never made any request to the government to invite them in any function.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had earlier in the day stated through his official account on social media website Twitter that the opposition leaders who were facing corruption charges could not be invited to attend the reception for the Saudi crown.

Fawad Chaudhry says a new political leadership may emerge from the opposition

“How can we invite the opposition to the (official) dinner? Their central leaders are either in jail or on bail or facing investigations. The remaining people do not have such kind of a (political) stature. So it is meaningless to invite or not to invite the opposition,” Mr Chaudhry wrote on Twitter.

In the same Tweet, Mr Chaudhry termed the present opposition “non-serious” and expressed the hope that a new political leadership might emerge from the opposition.

“The absence of a serious opposition is (itself) a political crisis. A new leadership may emerge (in future),” the information minister said in his tweet which invited the wrath of the opposition parties.

When contacted, Mr Chaudhry said that he stood by what he had tweeted, saying that no one from the opposition deserved to be present at the official ceremonies.

Responding to a question, he said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was in the US and had he been in the country, he might have been invited to the official dinner for the Saudi prince.

In response to the opposition’s claim that the prime minister was also facing investigations in corruption references, the minister said that neither Mr Khan nor any member of the federal cabinet had been formally charge-sheeted in any case. On the other hand, he said, the charges had been formalised against the opposition leaders and they were either in jail or on bail.

PPP secretary general and former Senate chairman Nayyar Bokhari said the Saudi crown prince would be a guest of the state, and not a personal guest of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said a state was represented by the elected representatives and not through the government alone.

Mr Bokhari alleged that national prestige was being hurt at the cost of personal enmity with the opposition. He said the absence of the opposition from the official engagements would be a cause of embarrassment for the government itself. He said the government had made Pakistan a laughing stock in the international community through its actions.

The PPP leader said the rulers were not aware of the dangerous situation prevailing in the region. Saying that the rulers had no care for the country’s prestige and honour, he said the lack of unity within Pakistan would be detrimental to the country and the nation.

PPP secretary general for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and former deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi in his separate statement said that the opposition had not begged before the government for the invitation to attend the official engagements during the Saudi prince’s visit.

Mr Kundi said if the information minister’s logic was correct, then Prime Minister Imran Khan himself was also facing investigations in the helicopter reference against him. Then, he said, not only the prime minister, but his ministers should also be kept away from the official ceremony.

“How will the prime minister face the Saudi crown prince?” he asked.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the government was ignorant of the parliamentary system.

“In fact, they (the rulers) do not believe in the parliamentary system,” she said, adding that “their lack of inclusiveness is underpinned by a parochial mindset. This is just another manifestation of PTI’s dictatorial doctrine.”

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019