Shahbaz reaches out to Zardari in Karachi visit

Published September 3, 2020
THIS photo released by the PML-N shows PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari welcoming PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif on his arrival at Bilawal House.
THIS photo released by the PML-N shows PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari welcoming PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif on his arrival at Bilawal House.

• PPP, PML-N rubbish talk of presidential system
• PTI govt asked why it stopped funds approved for city
• Opposition’s Rehbar committee meets today

KARACHI: The main opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party, decided on Wednesday to convene a Rehbar Committee meeting on Thursday (today) to finalise a date for a multiparty conference that would eventually give a roadmap to oust the Imran Khan-led government through constitutional and legal means.

The decision was taken at a meeting held at the Bilawal House, where PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif along with his party stalwarts Ahsan Iqbal, Mohammad Zubair, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Miftah Ismail came to meet former president Asif Ali Zardari, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and senior party leaders and discuss overall political situation in the country.

The daylong visit of Mr Shahbaz, who is leader of opposition in the National Assembly, to Karachi was primarily aimed at expressing solidarity with the people after record-breaking rains in Sindh caused urban flooding here, but he also met the PPP leadership and Faisal Edhi.

Karachi has become a hub of political activities as just a day earlier Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar had visited the city to express solidarity with the rain-hit people, while it was also announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan would pay a visit to the city later. Also, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had come to the city and taken an aerial survey of the impact of urban flooding before getting a briefing at the corps headquarters.

The opposition parties at the meeting discussed the situation after rains and country’s political developments as the official Twitter handle of the PPP briefly stated that the meeting discussed important issues and “reiterated [launching] a democratic struggle against the government”.

Later, a statement issued from the Bilawal House said that “top opposition leaders of the country were in consensus that all the constitutional options would be used to get rid of the incumbent ineligible government, as its failures and incompetence have become a torment for the country and the people”.

It said both the parties strongly condemned the government’s actions under the garb of accountability as political revenge.

The statement said the PPP and PML-N also renewed their commitment to adhere to democratic principles in the light of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed between former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif some 14 years ago.

At the meeting, the leadership of both the parties agreed that they would work together for the supremacy of the Constitution and parliament, for free judiciary and free media; the protection of the democratic process and the protection of the constitutional and democratic rights of the people.

Joint press conference

Later, PPP leaders Farhatullah Babar and Naveed Qamar and PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal and Maryam Aurganzeb jointly held a media briefing.

“The meeting of [opposition’s] Rehbar Committee is being convened tomorrow [Thursday] as time has come to finalise and announce the date of an all-party conference,” said PPP leader Naveed Qamar.

Mr Iqbal reiterated the PML-N leadership stance that the federal government should launch relief efforts in consultation with the provincial government.

“In today’s meeting, both the parties decided to participate in the tomorrow meeting of the Rehbar Committee,” he said, stressing the need for the opposition to employ all “democratic and constitutional” options to send this government packing.

Mr Babar referring to the reports against a special assistant to the prime minister said that the allegations were very serious and should be investigated at the highest level. He said it was surprising that the government, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the PM’s aide himself were silent over the issue.

Both the PPP and PML-N rubbished talks of introduction of the presidential system in the country, saying the only way to steer the country in the right direction was following 1973 Constitution.

Visit to rain-hit areas

Soon after his arrival to the metropolis, the opposition leader said he came here to sympathise with Sindh as the monsoon rains had caused huge destruction in Karachi.

The PML-N president asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to put politics aside, immediately pay a visit to Karachi and consult the Sindh government and all stakeholders to launch concerted relief efforts for the rain-hit people of the country’s commercial capital.

“It is my appeal and request to leave politics aside to solve the problems of the people. This is not an occasion to talk politics. Today I just want to promote national unity,” he said while talking to the media soon after his arrival.

Demanding that the federal government pay financial compensation to the people of Karachi as well as those residing in villages of Sindh whose crops destroyed in rains, the opposition leader also asked the PTI government as to why it had stopped releasing funds for Karachi’s development projects that had been approved by the government before 2018.

Mr Sharif, who contested and lost the 2018 general election from a Karachi National Assembly constituency, visited multiple city areas to express his condolence with residents as well as to assure the people that his party would always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in testing times.

Footage aired by private TV channels showed Mr Sharif and his vehicle were surrounded by the people, some of whom expressing their gratitude for visiting them while many others trying to narrate their ordeal.

The official twitter handle of the PML-N said Mr Shahbaz visited Baldia Town and Nazimabad area, where he addressed scores of party workers and supporters. In one of today’s tweets, he stated: “Witnessed extreme anger & anguish among the people during my visit to Malir & Gulistan-i-Johar. High time all stakeholders took this outrage as a WARNING & got down to fixing the rot. No shiny power point prez, social media trends / blame game can be alternative to service delivery.”

Visits Edhi Home

Mr Shahbaz after visiting the Bilawal House went to the Edhi Home where he was welcomed by Faisal Edhi.

The opposition leader tweeted: “Always a fulfilling experience to visit Edhi house, one of the largest philanthropic networks in the world. Abdul Sattar Edhi continues to be an inspiration and role model due to his selfless services for humanity. Thanks to Faisal Edhi for his services during floods in Karachi!”

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2020

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