Shahbaz and Bilawal speak on phone, boost hopes for alliance

Published July 20, 2020
PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari inquired after PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s health. — DawnNewsTV/File
PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari inquired after PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s health. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: Efforts for forming an anti-government alliance have gained momentum as, after weeks of silence, the top leaders of the two major opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — got into touch with each other on Sunday.

Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N chief, and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who had reached Lahore the previous day, exchanged views over telephone.

Mr Sharif has been in quarantine for the last couple of weeks after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Mr Bhutto-Zardari could not speak to him even on the phone despite spending many days in the Punjab capital during the first week of this month.

The PPP leader enquired after Shahbaz Sharif’s health, while the latter expressed good wishes for the health of former president Asif Ali Zardari.

Three-member PML-N delegation to call on PPP chairman

The two sides agreed to increase their contacts and a three-member PML-N delegation is scheduled to call on Mr Bhutto-Zardari at the Bilawal House in Bahria Town.

Ahsan Iqbal, the PML-N’s secretary general, former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and ex-railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique are likely to be part of the delegation.

The PPP, which has already hosted multi-party conferences (MPCs) at the provincial level, is desirous of organising a national-level event before going for an anti-government movement, but the reported poor health of Mr Sharif has been a hurdle.

Both the parties have formed their teams for coordinating with other opposition parties to form a “joint, concrete anti-government agenda” and hope that the MPC would be the best platform to frame and announce such an agenda.

Mr Iqbal stated on record a day ago that his party would launch a Punjab Bachao (save Punjab) drive as the province “has been ruined during the two-year rule of the PTI”.

He would not give a timeline for the movement.

The hurdles in direct contacts between the leadership of the two opposition parties have been creating doubts about the prospects of holding an MPC.

But Rana Sanaullah, the Punjab president of the N-League, publicly stated that there had been three telephonic contacts between the top leaders for organising the event. He said the MPC would definitely be held and that it would also achieve its objectives.

The leadership of the two parties had earlier skipped a similar sitting organised by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on June 28 after the latter declined to postpone the conference until approval of the federal budget.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2020

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