ISLAMABAD: After several meetings and behind-the-scenes contacts among top leaders of the country’s major opposition parties aimed at removing misunderstandings developed among them on certain political matters, the opposition’s Rehbar Committee on Thursday finally announced that the much-delayed multiparty conference (MPC) would be held at Zardari House in Islamabad on Sept 20.
The decision to hold the MPC was announced by Rehbar Committee’s convener and senior leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Akram Durrani at a press briefing after the committee’s meeting at his residence.
Those present at the briefing included Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Farhatullah Babar and Nayyar Bokhari of the PPP, Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N, Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Dr Jahanzaib Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M).
The Rehbar Committee having representation of 11 parties met a day after a meeting of PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif with PPP leaders Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Karachi on Wednesday.
Informed sources told Dawn that during the Rehbar Committee’s meeting, the smaller parties, particularly the nationalist parties of Balochistan, lashed out at the PPP and the PML-N over their role in the past two years and held them responsible for the disunity in the opposition’s ranks.
Smaller parties lash out at PPP, PML-N over their role in two years
The sources said that PkMAP Senator Usman Kakar was the most vocal in the meeting and he recalled how the PPP and the PML-N ditched the opposition alliance and caused division among them during elections of the prime minister, speaker, deputy speaker and the president of the country soon after the July 2018 general election.
The nationalist leaders also criticised the two major parties for facilitating the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in the passage of the bills related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the parliament.
According to one of the participants of the meeting, the opposition members also discussed options to give a formal shape to their alliance on the pattern of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) during Gen Zia’s regime and the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) during the military government under Gen Pervez Musharraf. Some of the members were of the view that they needed to formalise their alliance before launching a full-fledged anti-government movement.
Another issue which came under discussion during the meeting was the possible outcome of their proposed anti-government movement. The sources said that a majority of the participants were of the view that the in-house change was not a good option and it would not help the country come out of the present crisis. There was a consensus that the opposition parties should make a demand for fresh elections in the country.
The issue of expanding the scope of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) or signing of a new treaty was also discussed in the meeting. The sources said that the report about the alleged offshore businesses and properties of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa was also discussed in the meeting and the participants reviewed the option of moving a reference against him.
A final decision on all these issues, however, was left to be decided in the MPC to be attended by party heads.
At the start of the press conference, Mr Durrani welcomed Senator Jahanzaib Jamaldini of the BNP-M to the opposition’s fold. The BNP-M, led by Sardar Akhtar Mengal, had announced its decision to come out of the ruling coalition in June over the failure of the PTI to implement the agreements reached between the two parties at the time of the formation of the government after the 2018 general elections.
Mr Durrani refuted reports about differences within the opposition’s ranks and said that “they all should now be considered as one party”. He was of the view that differences within the opposition were not in the interest of the country.
Expressing concern over the poor state of economy, growing unemployment and media curbs, Mr Durrani said that allowing this government to stay in power even for one day would be detrimental for the country and the nation.
Responding to a question about the agenda for the MPC, Mr Durrani said the opposition parties wanted to have fair elections in the country without any “outside interference”.
Replying to a question, PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said that Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif had already announced that he would lead his party delegation in the MPC.
Meanwhile, leaders of the PPP and the PML-N hit out at Prime Minister Imran Khan over his reported remarks during a meeting on Wednesday that the opposition and India were on the same page on the issue of FATF as India was making every effort to put Pakistan in the FATF blacklist.
Mr Iqbal alleged that the present government had caused a political chaos in the country at a time when members of armed forces were embracing martyrdom almost daily in different incidents along the Line of Control and other terrorism incidents.
“How dare he (the PM) gives certificate of treason to the opposition at a time when they (the government) had committed treason with the blood of the people of Kashmir,” he said, adding that it was due to the weakness on the part of the government that India today “gulped” Kashmir through a step New Delhi did not dare taking in the last 72 years. Instead of focusing on Kashmir, he said the prime minister had utilised his full force in victimising his opponents.
Raja Pervez Ashraf of the PPP termed the prime minister’s remarks “propaganda” against the opposition, saying that they had cooperated with the government on the FATF legislations with sincerity as they also wanted to see Pakistan coming out of the grey list in terms of terror financing.
He said the PPP, the PML-N and the JUI-F participated in the negotiations with the government which also included their proposed amendments to the FATF bills.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2020