Bilawal, Maryam resolve to block budget approval

17 Jun 2019


BILAWAL Bhutto-Zardari exchanges pleasantries with Maryam Nawaz upon arrival at Jati Umra on Sunday.
—Aun Jafri / White Star
BILAWAL Bhutto-Zardari exchanges pleasantries with Maryam Nawaz upon arrival at Jati Umra on Sunday. —Aun Jafri / White Star

LAHORE: In their joint move to build a momentum against the PTI-led government, young leaders of two major opposition parties — Maryam Nawaz of PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari of PPP — discussed a joint strategy for a protest movement both inside and outside parliament against what they called anti-masses actions of the government.

Other issues that figured in their meeting included the references filed against superior court judges, “vindictive” accountability process, the proposed multi-party conference of the opposition, alleged violation of basic human rights and censorship of the coverage of the opposition’s activities, as well as attacks on journalists.

The two leaders also set their first target ahead of the launch of a formal anti-government campaign: blocking the passage of the recen­tly presented federal budget. Mr Bhutto-Zardari termed the budget a “suggestion for economic suicide”.

The decisions were taken when scions of the Sharif and Bhutto-Zardari families along with their aides met for the second time in a month at Jati Umra residence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif here on Sunday. The two leaders had earlier met at an Iftar-dinner hosted by the PPP chairman in Islamabad last month.

Neither of the two leaders faced the media anxiously waiting outside Jati Umra after the meeting as the PPP chairman left for Bedian Road residence of party leader Aitzaz Ahsan.

PPP chairman to start mass-contact drive on 21st

A press release issued later and Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s media talk at Mr Ahsan’s residence suggested that both sides had decided to consult their respective parties on the proposals discussed at the meeting before giving them a final shape.

The talks followed a one-on-one meeting between Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

The press release said the PPP chairman visited Raiwind on the invitation of PML-N vice president Maryam and the two leaders along with their aides thoroughly deliberated upon the national scenario. It said they were unanimous in their opinion that every sector in the country was on the decline and had been pushed towards economic disaster. All economic indicators were hinting at a looming severe crisis as the country had been “mortgaged” with international lenders, but despite handing over national institutions to “outsiders”, the situation was worsening, it added.

“They agreed on the fact that continuation of the incumbent incompetent and unrepresentative government may ruin and wreck the country and its people and may steer it to [some] tragedy whose effects may not be reversed later.

“The two also agreed that leaders of all [other] opposition parties are also taken into confidence on framing a joint line of action against the government. And that those parties will also be approached that have voted for bringing the PTI into government and are part of the coalition government but don’t agree with the government policies,” the press release said.

Both the leaders also demanded withdrawal of the references against two superior court judges and termed the act mala fide and an attack on the independence of judiciary. They asked the National Assembly speaker to give up “partial” attitude and as per parliamentary traditions and rules issue production orders for the MNAs under detention on various charges so that they could represent their respective constituents during the debate on the “anti-masses” budget.

The release said the meeting also discussed the “one-sided vindictive” actions by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman and targeting of the opposition in connivance with the government. The conduct of judiciary vis-à-vis “fake, baseless and fabricated” NAB cases, the proposed multi-party conference to be convened by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and joint strategy of the PPP and PML-N were also discussed.

Both the leaders agreed that the incumbent “unrepresentative” government didn’t represent the real mandate of the masses. It was lamented that the two parties had in the larger national interest adopted a positive attitude ignoring what it called “sham” results of the “rigged” elections, but the “incompetence” of the PTI government not only damaged the economy but also made the national politics and administrative working a laughing stock.

The press release said the government attitude had paralysed parliament and halted the law-making process, adding that the country was also facing embarrassment at the diplomatic front because of the conduct of the “selected” prime minister unbecoming of his office.

The Charter of Democracy signed by late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in 2006 also figured in the meeting and the two leaders declared it an important document that needed to be synchronised with the new requirements, it said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari told the media at Mr Ahsan’s residence that it was decided at the meeting to assemble all parties at one platform for what he said checking the storm of inflation. He said the opposition won’t let the “anti-masses” budget to be passed and would work to make the “puppet” government accountable to the people.

He announced the launching a mass-contact drive from June 21, marking the birthday of his late mother and former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto by holding a public meeting in Nawabshah, Sindh.

The PPP chairman told a questioner that Maryam Nawaz is new leader of the PML-N and they hoped that she would go with truth for building a long-term trust. He said he saw in her anger deprivations of the people of Punjab and hoped that she would not let down Mian Nawaz Sharif in her political strategies.

Responding to a question about the references against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice K.K. Agha, he said the “selected” government was attempting to install “selected” judges in the judiciary like former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf had done so in the past.

But, he recalled, the masses had revolted against it and launched a movement for restoration of the judiciary and that this time too they would resist the move. Answering a question about the recent budget, he said they were astonished at the budgetary proposals as the government had provided relief to “plunderers and thieves” through the tax amnesty scheme, but levied taxes on almost all items consumed by the poor.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019