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Opposition protest

May 21, 2019

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THE opposition has gathered on one platform and the power maps are out one more time. This is how it has been in this country routinely. The 11-party meeting hosted by the PPP leaders in Islamabad on Sunday has more or less confirmed that the unhappy opposition parties are ready to close ranks to fight for a common cause. The signs are that this could well be the beginning of yet another street agitation stemming from the acrimonious relationship between the rulers and the opposition. Unfortunately, it seems that the days where one could propose and oppose and move ahead in parliament elude us. Various views were discussed at the PPP’s iftar party. Whereas the so-called radicals associated with the PTM came up with the basic demand of adhering to the Constitution, one participant spoke of involving traders from Karachi to Khyber in street protests. This indicates the impatience and intent in the ranks of the opposition.

The focus will now be on a multiparty meeting to be hosted by the JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman after Eid, which may finalise the details (basically who will be placed where on the jalsa stage) before a call is given to the public to come out on the streets. At the news conference which followed the meeting, the PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi tried to explain the issues that have brought the opposition together. He reiterated how the opposition believed that last year’s election was controversial, and said that the government had put the ‘country’s sovereignty’ at risk. Over and above that, Mr Abbasi said that the opposition was not being given the right to speak in parliament. His argument was that the only choice the opposition was left with was to have talks with the government on the roads. Mr Abbasi has a valid point. The PTI is not exactly the most efficient of political parties when it comes to running the assemblies. Amid the fresh posturing for combat on the national front, one of the toughest and most crucial tasks for the Imran Khan government would be to disprove this contention of the opposition having been denied room and relevance in parliament. That might cause a rethink among opposition members and allow them to concentrate on the battle within the legislature. Indeed, while protest is their democratic right, at a time of economic uncertainty and pressures on democracy, debate and protest within parliament would be a more sensible option.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2019