• PML-N claims they even discussed ‘worst-case scenarios’
• Fazl angry over leak of meeting’s proceedings to media
ISLAMABAD: Explaining its stance after being singled out on the issue of en masse resignations from the assemblies, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday rejected the perception that the party had reached some kind of understanding with the establishment and claimed that other parties in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) failed to provide a clear roadmap and the post-resignation strategy.
Talking to Dawn, PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari alleged that the nine parties which had linked the en masse resignations with the long march were repeatedly asked about the strategy which they would adopt after submitting resignations from the assemblies, but “they failed to give replies to our questions”.
Mr Bokhari ridiculed the reports that the PPP was running away from the resignations as it had struck a deal with the establishment and said had the party reached any understanding with the establishment, Yousuf Raza Gilani would not have faced such a defeat in the election for Senate chairman office.
“The PDM parties failed to satisfy us on the situation after submission of resignations,” he said. It was wrong to blame the PPP for everything as the party was still committed to follow the PDM declaration and the action plan issued after their multi-party conference (MPC) in September last year, he said.
The PPP secretary general said in the action plan, the use of resignations had been mentioned as a last resort after utilising all other options, including vote of no-confidence and long march. He said the PPP was determined to implement the PDM’s agenda which included removal of the government.
Another senior PPP leader while talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity said the party was shocked to see violation of the declaration and the PDM’s action plan by the other parties by linking en masse resignations with the long march.
On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) secretary general Ahsan Iqbal denied that they had not provided any post-resignation roadmap, saying they had thoroughly talked about it in the PDM meeting and even the worst-case scenarios were discussed.
Mr Iqbal regretted that the PPP did not honour the opinion of the nine parties having long political and parliamentary experience. He said it was a collective view of the nine parties that the government would collapse after opposition lawmakers submitted their resignations as it would not be possible for it to go for by-elections in more than 450 constituencies.
Moreover, he said, the PPP was told in the meeting that they could consider submitting resignations only from the National Assembly in the first phase, if the party did not want to sacrifice its provincial government in Sindh. Again, Mr Iqbal said, it would not be possible for the government to have by-polls on 161 seats and half-empty opposition-less house would have no legitimacy and it would “create a question of legitimacy of the system.”
“You can hold by-elections on 20 or 30 seats, but not on 161 seats,” he opined. He said the nine parties believed that the whole system would collapse after the opposition’s en masse resignations.
Explaining the worst case scenario, he said first of all the speaker would not be able to hold their resignations for an indefinite or a longer period. He said the situation would become more difficult for the speaker and the government if the opposition members started besieging him daily asking him to accept their resignations and there would be a “drama in the country.”
When his attention was drawn to the fact that during the previous PML-N government, the then speaker Ayaz Sadiq had held the resignations of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members for almost a year, he said that was just one party, adding that when the entire opposition would come out of the assembly, then the whole system would become questionable.
Secondly, the PML-N leader said, even if the government decided to hold by-elections on the vacant seats and also in phases and according to its own choice of timing and place, then the PDM could again contest the elections jointly as they did in the recent by-elections, but only to resign again from the seats which, according to him, would create a “perpetual crisis”.
“At one point of time, you have to take risk. In politics, two plus two is not always four,” Mr Iqbal said.
Meanwhile, speaking at a ceremony in Peshawar, PDM president and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed annoyance over the PPP’s attitude, saying it should have respected the opinion and viewpoint of the nine parties. He expressed the hope that the PPP in its Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting would give consideration and respect to the collective opinion of the nine parties, saying they wanted to keep the PPP within the PDM ranks.
The Maulana, who had left the press briefing on Tuesday after presiding over the PDM meeting apparently to show his displeasure over their failure to reach a consensus, also indirectly criticised the PPP for “leaking the proceedings of the meeting” to the media.
“Discussions in such meetings are always kept secret as a trust. Leaking the proceedings amounts to the breach of trust,” said the Maulana in an apparent reference to the media coverage of the PDM meeting containing almost full speech of former president Asif Zardari.
On the other hand, PPP’s Nayyar Bokhari said the Maulana’s criticism was justified, but the meeting was not held on the PPP’s premises and it was hosted by the PML-N. The arrangement of video link was made by the PML-N.
Earlier, speaking at a news conference, PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the party believed in democracy and had defeated every despotic government with its democratic actions. He said it was the PPP which convinced all political parties in the PDM to take part in the by-elections and the PDM won in the four provinces.
He said all decisions taken by the PDM on the advice of the PPP proved correct and mature. He said resignations were not first or second option but the last option to send the government packing. He said the PPP wanted to bring a no-confidence motion in the Punjab assembly.
Mr Ashraf said they had made preparations for the long march but when the resignations were bracketed with the long march, the PPP asked for time to consult its CEC.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021