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It is incumbent upon opposition to prevent 'economic suicide', says Bilawal after meeting at Jati Umra

Updated June 16, 2019

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On the invitation of Maryam Nawaz, a PML-N vice president, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived at Jati Umra on Sunday amid reports of increasing cooperation among opposition parties against the government. — Photo provided by author
On the invitation of Maryam Nawaz, a PML-N vice president, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived at Jati Umra on Sunday amid reports of increasing cooperation among opposition parties against the government. — Photo provided by author
On the invitation of Maryam Nawaz, a PML-N vice president, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived at Jati Umra on Sunday amid reports of increasing cooperation among opposition parties against the government. — Photo provided by author
On the invitation of Maryam Nawaz, a PML-N vice president, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived at Jati Umra on Sunday amid reports of increasing cooperation among opposition parties against the government. — Photo provided by author

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday lambasting the 'anti-people' budget presented by the government said that it is incubment upon the opposition to prevent the budget from passing in order to "prevent economic suicide".

These remarks came during a press conference right after the PPP leader held a meeting with PML-N's Maryam Nawaz on her invitation.

The meeting, held at Jati Umra, was called in the backdrop of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari's arrest in the fake accounts case last week. The PML-N's Quaid, Nawaz Sharif, is already serving a jail term in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment case.

"We view this to be an anti-people budget which is [essentially] a PTIMF budget. We have seen that IMF is deciding who will be our finance minister, our state bank governor and our FBR head. And after that, when the budget was presented we were shocked at how the government had not left a single area which it had not taxed [...] wherever they found an opportunity, they gave relief to the rich but there was none for the poor," said Bilawal whilst addressing the press conference.

Bilawal Bhutto's press conference following the meeting. — DawnNewsTV

"The budget is so bad it is economic suicide [...] It is incumbent on us to stop this budget. If the government goes, let it."

"We gave them a chance to present a people-friendly budget. We would have voted for such a budget but they presented an anti-people budget.

"PPP is left with no option. We will try our best to stop this [budget from passing] in the parliament."

Following a detailed meeting between the two parties, as well as a one-on-one meeting between Bilawal and Maryam, a statement was released by PML-N, highlighting the major areas of conversation between the two leaders.

According to the statement, both leaders agreed that the country "is suffering a decline in all walks of life and has been thrust into a deep quagmire of economic ruin".

"All economic indicators are pointing towards an extreme crisis," said the statement.

It said that despite Pakistan being "mortgaged off to international financial institutions, and the charge of national institutions being handed over to strangers, the situation is rapidly worsening".

The two sides discussed the "one-sided revenge tactics" being employed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) along with the "targeted behaviour towards the opposition in collusion with the government".

Maulana Fazlur Rehman's current All-Parties Conference (APC), as well as the joint strategy by both parties, was also discussed.

"Both Bilawal and Maryam agreed that the current non-representative government does not represent the people's true mandate," the press release said.

It was decided that talks must be held with leaders of other opposition parties so that a joint implementation strategy of the opposition can be devised. The scope of the joint implementation strategy would be extended to those parties as well who voted for the PTI in the elections or are part of its coalition "but they too are not in agreement with the government's policies", the PML-N said in its statement.

On matters of national importance the following points were released by the PML-N:

  • The government should take back the reference filed against the respected judges.
  • The references filed against the honourable judges are based on ill intent and are an attack on the freedom of the judiciary.
  • Both leaders strongly condemned the filing of the references by the government against the honourable judges.
  • Both leaders agreed to continue to struggle for the freedom and the independence of the judiciary.
  • Both leaders have asked that Speaker Asad Qaiser issue production orders of all the members of the parliament currently under arrest.
  • Both leaders demanded that the Speaker give up his biased behaviour.

'Big political development'

“I will go to Jati Umra on Sunday for a lunch on invitation of Maryam Nawaz. We are meeting as a single party cannot steer the country out of crises,” Bhutto-Zardari had said on Saturday. Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz had said she had taken on board the top and senior party leadership, including her interned father and opposition leader, for her meeting with the PPP chairperson.

This was the second meeting between the Sharif and Bhutto scions in less than a month.

Last month, Maryam had been invited to an iftar hosted by Bilawal for opposition parties. After the event, the opposition parties held a joint press conference and announced to "launch protests inside and outside the parliament after Eidul Fitr" and hold an All Parties Conference (APC) to "chalk out a joint strategy on how to tackle the problems facing Pakistan". Following the event, Maryam had acknowledged that "the PML-N and PPP have been arch rivals" but said that "our upbringing is such that when we become allies we also do that with full sincerity."

PML-N leader and former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair, while talking to journalists earlier today, said that the meeting itself would be a big political development.

"This meeting would be a matter of concern for the government," he said, adding that the two sides had already decided to launch a campaign against the government. He said that the two parties need to work together due to a number of problems.

Criticising the PTI-led government, he said that the ruling regime lacks a [competent] team, plan and, a vision. "It is an obligation for the opposition to make its presence felt."

Former provincial minister, Rana Sanaullah, however, called the meeting "a matter of routine". He added that the two sides would discuss the political scenario of the country.

A decision about agitation [against the government] will be taken in the All Parties Conference (APC), he said, adding that the PML-N would follow the decisions taken by the APC and not dictate the conference.

"PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif has met with Bilawal a day ago, [but] if Bilawal wants to call on Shahbaz Sharif again, he can meet him."

Forming alliances

The leadership of the two main opposition parties first met in May in Islamabad, with both parties describing the meeting informal to establish “rapport” with each other. However, the PML-N and PPP leaders are calling this meeting more significant for launch of a joint movement against the government.

“The fathers of both Maryam and Bilawal are in jail and both young leaders have massive public appeal and a joint protest drive may put the Imran Khan government on the back foot over its ambitious agenda against the opposition,” said a PML-N leader privy to the development while speaking to Dawn.

He said since the top leadership of both parties was in jail, it was time that the young leadership conducted aggressive politics in the face of the Imran government’s “vindictive” actions against the opposition, attack on judges of the superior courts and the anti-people budget.

“Both parties are likely to build a momentum against the government on these issues in the first phase and protest will be the agenda in the next phase, which will probably be led by Maulana Fazl,” he added.