Planned govt briefing on National Action Plan cancelled after opposition leaders back out

27 Mar 2019

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had written to opposition parties and asked them to take part in the consultative process to speed up implementation of the National Action Plan. ─ Photo courtesy FO/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had written to opposition parties and asked them to take part in the consultative process to speed up implementation of the National Action Plan. ─ Photo courtesy FO/File

A planned government briefing to parliamentary leaders on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, scheduled for March 28, was cancelled by the government after leaders of major opposition parties declined to participate in the meeting due to "political considerations".

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's spokesperson told DawnNewsTV that PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif had declined to attend the meeting through a letter, while PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman had communicated their unavailability with the government via telephone.

The spokesperson claimed that they had all declined to attend due to their "political engagements".

"Under these circumstances, due to the political considerations of opposition parties, the consultation will not be held," the spokesperson added.

The government had formally initiated the process of consultations on NAP with opposition parties in mid-March.

Although there was no mention of military courts in the foreign minister's letters to opposition leaders, a number of opposition members believe the main purpose of the activity was to seek their consent for their extension. The two-year term of the courts is set to expire soon.

The main opposition parties had been contemplating a boycott of the planned briefing due to prevailing tensions with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

A source in the PPP earlier said that after the "brutal police action" against party workers gathered outside the Islamabad NAB office to show support for Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, it had become difficult for the leadership to sit with government functionaries at any forum.

Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif had urged the government to brief the whole parliament instead of convening a meeting of "selected leaders", while the JUI-F chief had announced that his party had previously rejected NAP and therefore would not attend the scheduled briefing.

The opposition PPP had previously taken a tough stance on the issue of military courts and had extended its conditional support to the previous PML-N government over it, and is again opposed to the idea of giving them another extension.

The party had, during its Central Executive Committee meeting held in Naudero on Dec 26 last year, already declared through a resolution that the parliament should not give another extension to the military courts, according to party stalwart Farhatullah Babar.

Sources in the PTI said the government had decided to engage opposition parties over the issue as it did not have the required two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament to get the constitutional amendment bill passed for this purpose.