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Opposition may boycott govt briefing on NAP

Updated March 21, 2019

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PPP has already suggested to convene an in-camera joint sitting of parliament for a briefing on NAP. — INP/File
PPP has already suggested to convene an in-camera joint sitting of parliament for a briefing on NAP. — INP/File

ISLAMABAD: The main opposition parties are contemplating boycott of a planned government briefing on implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism due to the prevailing tense political atmosphere in the country, sources told Dawn on Wednesday.

While the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) has already said the party would not participate in the March 28 meeting of parliamentary leaders, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party are also considering the option of boycotting the event, sources said.

The PPP has already suggested to the government to convene an in-camera joint sitting of parliament for the briefing on NAP or military courts.

A source in the PPP said after Wednesday’s “brutal police action” against the party in Islamabad, it had become difficult for the leadership to sit with government functionaries at any forum.

Syed Khurshid Shah, the PPP stalwart, confirmed that his party was in consultation with the PML-N to work out a strategy for coming meeting on the NAP. Hinting that the two parties might stay away from the briefing, Mr Shah said the opposition wanted the government to use parliament to discuss national issues.

“The opposition will force Prime Minister Imran Khan to acknowledge the supremacy of parliament.”

Shahbaz Sharif, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, vice chairman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, urging him to brief the whole parliament instead of convening a meeting of “selected leaders”.

“The collective opposition believes in inclusive decision-making and promoting a sense of collective ownership of all decisions taken in the national interest. It is, therefore, suggested that your proposed briefing be given to the National Assembly so that the country can benefit from the collective wisdom of all parliamentarians instead of selected parliamentary leaders,” Shahbaz Sharif wrote in the letter to Mr Qureshi while responding to the latter’s invitation letter to him.

Speaking at a news conference after presiding over a meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee on Wednes­day, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced that his party had previously rejected the NAP and it had decided not to attend the March 28 briefing.

In a invitation letter sent to opposition parties, Mr Qureshi had stated that the meeting of parliamentary leaders was being convened “to underscore our continued commitment to speedy implementation of the NAP, which is clearly in the long-term interest of the people of Pakistan”.

Although in the invitation letter there is no mention of the issue of giving extension to military courts, which were set up under NAP to hold trial of civilians charged with terrorism and which are completing their two-year term on March 30, a number of opposition members believe that the main purpose of this activity is to seek their consent for giving second extension to these courts.

Talking to Dawn, a senior PML-N office-bearer confirmed that the party was seriously considering the option of staying away from the government briefing.

The opposition parties say they want the government to convene a joint sitting of parliament for briefing on such an important issue. Military courts were established in Jan 2015 and granted permission to try civilians charged with terrorism after the terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar the previous month. The courts remained non-functional in 2017 from January to March after expiry of the two-year constitutional cover.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2019