The multiparty conference, hosted by the PPP and attended by almost all major opposition parties in the capital on Sunday, attracted the ire of the PTI leaders and government members, who termed it an attempt to "put pressure on the government [...] for personal gains".
The conference was held at a five-star hotel in Islamabad and was attended by leaders of PML-N, National Party (NP), Awami National Party (ANP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Jamiatul Hadees.
The opening speech was delivered by PPP co-chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari, who addressed participants through video link. PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif also addressed the conference through a video link from London. The speech marked the deposed prime minister's political comeback after more than a year. He has been in the UK since November last year for medical treatment.
'Flimsy attempt' to pressurise govt
"APC, a flimsy attempt to put pressure on the govt to back off on accountability," said Information Minister Shibli Faraz in a tweet. "Nation has witnessed that opposition has used politics for personal gains and used parliament to protect their personal empires.
"PM Imran Khan will never compromise his commitment [to eliminate] corruption. Hence no NRO."
"Opposition has said that if Imran Khan [agrees to] an agreement, it will put an [end] to the APC and anti-government movement," tweeted Senator Faisal Javed.
"According to the agreement, Al Azizia, Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Avenfield, Surrey's property and other cases were to be dropped. There is a copy of the draft [of the agreement]. Imran Khan had refused to sign it."
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid termed the huddle a gathering of "criminals and convicts", who were looking for a way to get rid of the cases against them, APP reported.
'Nawaz has declared nation as enemy'
Most ministers and PTI leaders criticised Nawaz's speech, in which he said that the opposition's struggle was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but those who brought him into power through the 2018 elections.
"Today, Nawaz Sharif has declared the entire nation as an enemy," tweeted Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi. "He says that the fight is not against Imran Khan but against those who brought him to power. Mr [Imran] came to power through the votes of 17 million people, not through anyone's patronage."
"Someone should tell Mian sahib that the public actually gave respect to the vote in the 2018 election and cast it wisely. The result was that Mian sahib not only lost power but also had to run from the country [...] Isn't this respect enough or does he want more?" asked Planning Minister Asad Umar.
"Another flop episode of abu bachao mohim (save my father campaign)," remarked Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry. "Nawaz Sharif's speech was broadcast live — what would be a bigger example of media freedom?
"He [Nawaz] said that the country was under dictatorship for 33 years but he did not tell [the conference] that he himself remained part of that system for 15 years and served as a puppet."
In another tweet, Chaudhry said: "The point of Nawaz Sharif's speech is that 'as long as I am in power, everything is fine, but if the army does not play a role in bringing me to power it is unacceptable'. His only complaint against army and judiciary is that they didn't stand with him when Imran Khan and the public kicked [him] out."
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also commented on Nawaz's speech, terming it "absconder rhetoric".
"Ah, the question they will never answer!" Mazari said in response to Chaudhry's tweet. "By the way what was all the cacophony about not letting NS speech be telecast live? Perhaps those making these accusations should have courtesy to apologise at least? Absconder rhetoric from London is something we in Pakistan are used to for years!"
Following reports that Nawaz was likely to address the conference, SAPM Shahbaz Gill had warned that “the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and other legal options” would be used if the PML-N supremo's speech was aired by TV channels.
The speech, however, was aired by TV channels as well as live streamed on social media platforms. Gill told Geo News that Prime Minister Imran had said that Nawaz Sharif's address should be aired so that "his lies could be exposed" to the nation.
Gill also weighed in on the matter and said: "If Mian sahib really wants to [be] a revolutionary leader, he should come to Pakistan instead of firing smoke bullets. There was hope that Mian sahib will announce that he is returning to Pakistan along with his absconder group."