Opposition cold-shoulders govt’s olive branch

Published January 23, 2021
“Three PTI leaders came to the opposition leader’s chamber and invited the opposition for talks to shun differences for at least smooth running of parliamentary business,” said PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb. — DawnNewsTV/File
“Three PTI leaders came to the opposition leader’s chamber and invited the opposition for talks to shun differences for at least smooth running of parliamentary business,” said PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid tense political situation in the country, the government on Friday held out an olive branch to the opposition during a meeting, seeking to have better relations at least in parliament, but the effort remained fruitless due to the latter’s tepid response, Dawn has learnt.

However, both sides agreed to meet again on Monday to make another effort to diminish political tension in the country and let parliamentary business run smoothly for legislation, which is mostly being done through ordinances.

According to the opposition, three leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and party’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly Amir Dogar — met senior opposition leaders in the chamber of the opposition leader (Shehbaz Sharif) and asked for the opposition’s cooperation to run the legislative business in parliament smoothly.

Both sides agree to meet again to make another effort for diminishing political tension and cooperating in parliament

But the opposition turned down the request and asked the government team to first stop bashing the opposition and then sought cooperation.

“Three PTI leaders came to the opposition leader’s chamber and invited the opposition for talks to shun differences for at least smooth running of parliamentary business,” said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb, when contacted.

“Three-member government team led by Pervez Khattak asked us for reconciliation, but we told him that on the one hand you call us chor (thieves) and, on the other, you seek our cooperation,” she added.

She said another PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had asked the government team that if “we [opposition leaders] are Indian agents and traitors, then why you are here to talk to us”.

Ms Aurangzeb said the ruling party feared that the opposition would take the government to task on the issue of Broadsheet (UK-based assets recovery firm) and, therefore, the cooperation of the opposition was sought.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Naveed Qamar, who was also present in the meeting, said that in fact he and some other opposition leaders felt that since the parliamentary process had come to a halt for the last two-and-a-half years, the government and the opposition should at least keep their fight outside parliament and make people-friendly legislation.

He said that earlier National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar had called the opposition team in his chamber for negotiations but when the latter refused, the government team came to meet the opposition members in the opposition leader’s chamber.

Mr Qamar said both sides would meet again on Monday and expressed the hope that the political confrontation would start diminishing. “I, Speaker Asad Qaisar, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Pervez Khattak are meeting on Monday,” he added.

Ali Muhammad Khan told Dawn that the government asked the opposition to shun their differences in parliament to make constructive legislation. “We asked them to even stage a long march against the government outside parliament but ensure smooth flow of legislative process in parliament,” he added.

“We asked the opposition that both sides should exhibit patience and tolerate each other’s speeches by letting each other to talk on their turns,” the PTI leader said, adding that if the parliamentary business ran, it would be in the benefit of the opposition to question the government on various issues. “We have the government and other forums, but the opposition has only one forum to assert and that is parliament.”

Mr Khan said the government side told the opposition that in democracy the doors of negotiations should always remain open. “If our relations become normal and any deadlock occurs in future, we should talk again to restore parliamentary ties.”

Asked why the government had rejected the opposition’s demand for amendments to the accountability law and why Prime Minister Imran Khan termed it giving an NRO-like concession, the state minister said that in fact the opposition had come up with the demand when the government wanted legislation to meet requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“On that occasion, the government felt that the opposition wanted to meet its own interests to take advantage of the government’s compulsion of FATF-related legislation,” he explained.

Earlier, when the National Assembly’s session resumed on Monday, opposition leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Naveed Qamar asked Speaker Asad Qaisar why the session was called in haste.

On this, Ali Muhammad Khan said the government wanted to summon the session last month for a discussion on the Covid-19 pandemic, but the opposition was not interested.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021

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