LAHORE: Two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People Party — have agreed to convene a multiparty conference post-Eidul Azha for framing a joint anti-government strategy and formed a joint coordination committee to take on board other opposition parties as well as set agenda of the MPC.

The agreement was reached during a meeting between a PML-N delegation and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at the Bilawal House here on Monday.

The N League team comprised the party’s secretary-general Ahsan Iqbal, former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Khwaja Saad Rafiq, while PPP’s Raja Parvez Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Ch Manzoor and Hassan Manzoor were also present.

Both sides discussed overall national political situation in the country and various options for future political strategy of the opposition.

Body formed to take other opposition parties on board

Briefing the media following the meeting, Mr Kaira and Mr Iqbal said that they had agreed on convening a multi-party conference of the opposition parties immediately after Eidul Azha and for the purpose set up a Joint Opposition Coordination Committee to set agenda of the moot as well as take on board other opposition parties.

The committee would meet during the week after consulting other stakeholders, they said.

However, a source told Dawn that the PML-N threw a spanner in the works by saying that party president Shahbaz Sharif may not be able to attend the MPC for health reasons.

Mr Bhutto was quoted as saying then that there would be no use of holding the event if Mr Sharif stayed out of it and said it should be delayed until the latter was healthy enough to attend it.

The Leaguers said they would consult the party chief again on the issue before giving a final nod to the MPC.

Both the parties were critical of the proposed amendments in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law that would empower the anti-corruption top watchdog to double the period – from 90 days to 180 days – for detaining an accused and it seemed the most immediate reason for holding the MPC fearing the ‘black’ law would be used to further suppress the opposition.

The National Assembly is going to legislate on a sensitive issue and that will also be on the agenda of the MPC, Mr Kaira affirmed. He said it exposed the NAB-Niazi nexus as opposition leaders like PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah and PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz Sharif were already in the NAB custody for the last around one year.

“It seems the law is being amended to further pressurize the opposition leadership.”

Mr Iqbal said that under cover of the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) requirements the government is going to implement a law that will be harsher than the earlier enactment as the NAB will be empowered to detain an accused for a further 90 days without bail with only the federal interior secretary or provincial home secretary authorized to adjudicate the case.

He feared that the proposed law would be ‘misused’ against any rival or dissident by producing just a ‘bogus’ $100 paper of transferring money through Hundi (an informal and illegal channel to transfer money) and bemoaned that it would also defame the very FATF demands and the UN instructions about checking terrorism financing.

Responding to a query about what time-frame they were seeing for ousting the government, he said had the coronavirus pandemic not surfaced the Imran Khan government would have crumbled under its own weight by March-April and new budget would have been presented in a different scenario.

“We could not have played with the lives of masses by developing an anti-government campaign during the pandemic, which came as a lifeline for the PTI government,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020

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