Unimpressive MPC

Updated 28 Jun 2019

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THE opposition’s multiparty conference in the capital on Wednesday proved nothing more than yet another exercise in rhetoric, with politicians once more announcing a rallying point in the future.

This time they resolved to observe a ‘black day’ on July 25 — the first anniversary of the 2018 general elections — to protest against the alleged rigging during the polls.

At a press briefing after the conference, political leaders from the country’s main opposition parties sat together to reveal the opposition’s ‘strategy’.

Stalwarts Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Shahbaz Sharif, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Yousuf Raza Gilani shared the stage with scions Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Together, they presented a smorgasbord of ideas ranging from the removal of Sadiq Sanjrani as Senate chairman, to the formation of a committee to implement the MPC’s decisions.

The parties also reiterated their rejection of the 2019-2020 federal budget and the government’s proposed National Economic Council and debt inquiry commission.

This week’s meeting marked the third time the opposition parties sat together to discuss politics and a joint course of action — a strategy that is yet to materalise despite efforts to build momentum.

Their very first congregation held during Ramazan, at the invitation of Mr Bhutto-Zardari, saw them discuss the political situation and contemplate a future mode of protest.

A follow-up invitation from Ms Nawaz to Raiwind, too, saw the leaders discussing everything from the judges’ references to the government’s economic policies; the meeting ended with a pledge to agree on a joint course of action.

The latest gathering has resulted in a similar announcement of a ‘mass contact campaign’ to mobilise the people against government policies — a sign that these meetings are actually quite hollow when it comes to substance. Evidently, the opposition’s get-togethers have failed to yield concrete plans or create a sense of hope among the people suffering the consequences of a spiralling economy.

With no clear strategy in view, it seems that the opposition is sitting together simply because political parties have common reservations about the ongoing accountability process.

With Nawaz Sharif in jail and Asif Zardari in NAB custody, the PML-N and PPP appear to be actually avoiding a tangible plan — perhaps there is also concern that they may not be able to draw the crowds.

Be that as it may, it is telling that these political figures do not seem to be able offer a coherent plan even after numerous meet-ups.

Undoubtedly, the main role of opposition parties is to question the government of the day and challenge its policies in the interest of the public.

In this spirit, the unity of the opposition and its meetings are intrinsic to forming a strategy.

But alas for our opposition parties, despite the assembly of heavyweights under one roof, the outcomes of iftar-dinner meetings and hotel huddles have been rather anti-climactic.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2019