PPP stays away from meeting with MBS

Updated February 19, 2019

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Sherry Rehman criticises government for not inviting opposition leaders to official engagements. — File photo
Sherry Rehman criticises government for not inviting opposition leaders to official engagements. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary delegation headed by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and comprising members from all major political parties, except the Pakistan Peoples Party, called on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) at the Prime Minister House on Monday.

The delegation also comprised members from the National Assembly, including Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, but no opposition member from the lower house of parliament was included in it. The PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate, Sherry Rehman, stayed away from the meeting while expressing her surprise and reservations over the composition of the delegation.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Raja Zafarul Haq and the party’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan, however, attended the meeting.

Others included in the delegation were Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, PTI’s Azam Swati, Senator Aurangzeb Khan from the erstwhile Fata, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and PTI’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Aamir Dogar.

Talking to Dawn, Sherry Rehman criticised the government for not inviting the opposition leadership to the official engagements during the visit of the Saudi crown prince, saying the government should have sent a positive message to the world that there was a complete unity among the political parties for the betterment of the country and the state.

She regretted the government’s decision of not inviting former president Asif Zardari, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in any activity during the visit of the Saudi prince.

Interestingly, the National Assembly and Senate secretariats issued separate statements giving an impression that the speaker and the Senate chairman had headed different delegations. However, the official photos and video footage clearly showed both the Senate chairman and the speaker together holding a meeting with the Saudi crown prince with the members of both houses of parliament.

When contacted, Mushahidullah Khan said he and Mr Haq had conveyed a special goodwill message of PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and party president Shahbaz Sharif to the prince. According to him, the Saudi prince said the Sharif brothers were very near to him and that he had a great respect for the Sharif family.

Mr Khan said he had also drawn the attention of the crown prince to the situation in India-held Kashmir and requested him to raise the matter with the Indian leadership during his visit to New Delhi.

Senate Chairman Sanjrani said Saudi investment in Pakistan was a trust of the international community in the country which would further pave the way for opening up new avenues of cooperation and economic partnership for regional development.

Speaker Asad Qaiser stressed the need for further intensifying cooperation between the two sides.

The Saudi crown prince said his country desired to see Pakistan a prosperous, stable and economically vibrant country.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2019