Opposition backs out from talks with govt

Published January 26, 2021
This file photo shows PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman along with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz. —Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
This file photo shows PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman along with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz. —Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

• PML-N busy with its parliamentary party meeting
• PPP’s Naveed Qamar says meeting without PML-N not possible
• Minister hints at inviting opposition for another round

ISLAMABAD: The much-anticipated government-opposition talks, scheduled for Monday, could not take place as the opposition seemed not interested in sitting with the treasury members to sort out issues.

A three-member government delegation, which had met the opposition leaders on Friday, seeking better relations at least in the parliament, were to hold another round of talks with opposition parties on Monday.

However, following the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentary party’s meeting in the Parliament House, which was also addressed by party’s vice president Maryam Nawaz, the opposition dropped the idea of holding the meeting.

Instead it was all set to stage a protest during the National Assembly session if the treasury had managed to bring in the required number of members to the house after quorum was pointed out by a PML-N member.

However, the treasury side could not meet the quorum following which proceedings of the lower house were adjourned till 4pm on Tuesday (today).

It had been hoped that the government-opposition meeting on Monday would have lowered the political temperature, but instead the gulf between both sides widened.

The opposition members even carried placards inscribed with anti-government slogans. They also placed portraits of their jailed leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif and Khursheed Shah on their tables, facing the National Assembly speaker. However, the opposition did not stage protest in the house after the proceedings stalled due to lack of quorum.

When contacted, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Syed Naveed Qamar said the opposition did not go for the talks as the PML-N was busy in its parliamentary party meeting.

“We cannot meet the government without PML-N,” he added.

On the other hand, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan told Dawn that PPP members came for the meeting but not the PML-N representatives.

“It was decided in our (government-opposition) Friday’s meeting that we will meet again on Monday but the opposition did not meet its commitment today,” he added.

Asked who came from the PPP for the meeting on Monday, the minister said, “only Mr Naveed Qamar”.

The state minister however hinted that the government planned to invite the opposition for another round of talks in the coming days.

Mr Qamar had told Dawn on Friday that a representative each from PPP and PML-N (he and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi) would attend the meeting on Monday while the government side would be represented by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak. National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was to preside over the meeting.

A member from the opposition benches, Imran Shah of the PML-N, pointed out quorum in the National Assembly soon after the question hour.

The quorum was pointed out when Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan started reading item-4 of the agenda, which related to the laying of the Federal Medical Teaching Institute Ordinance-2020 before the house.

At this, the speaker ordered counting and the quorum was found incomplete. As a result, the speaker adjourned the proceedings till the quorum was complete.

PTI Chief Whip in the National Assembly Malik Amir Dogar tried his best to bring back more members from the government side, but in vain. He kept on asking his fellow PTI members to call their colleagues, who had left the house during the question hour.

“Where is Ali Nawaz Awan, Sadaqat Abbasi, Maleeka Bukhari and others,” Mr Dogar called out, which was also audible to the journalists sitting in the press gallery.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari came to Amir Dogar and informed him that five female party members were sitting in the chamber of Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood.

“Call them immediately,” she added.

After almost an hour, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was presiding over the house, tried to resume the session and asked for a recount, but the government again failed to ensure the required strength after which the proceedings were adjourned.

Earlier, in the question hour, a variety of issues were discussed including the dilapidated railway system, locust swamp attack, auctioning of religious affairs ministry’s building in G-6, increase in prices of life-saving drugs and environment.

The opposition lambasted the government for not bringing any improvement to the railway service despite tall claims by former railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who presently has the interior portfolio.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021

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