• Shehbaz says PPP proposals to be presented before PDM • Zardari, Nawaz talk over phone
LAHORE: After almost a year of strained relations over the issue of en masse resignations from assemblies, the top PPP and PML-N leadership met here on Saturday and agreed to leave the thorny issue behind for a common cause — sending Prime Minister Imran Khan home — and pledged to weigh all options to achieve the goal, including a no-confidence move and joint long march.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari met PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and vice president Maryam Nawaz over lunch in Model Town and discussed different options put forward by both the parties to oust the PTI government. Analysts say this appears to be a serious move by the opposition parties to achieve their target in a long time.
It was a rare sight that Mr Zardari visited the residence of Mr Sharif exclusively to see him. Earlier, the PPP co-chairman would only call on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif here.
During the meeting, Ms Maryam connected the elder Zardari with her father, Nawaz, over the phone and both talked about moving together for a common cause.
After the meeting, Mr Shehbaz confirmed to journalists outside his house at a joint media talk with Mr Bilawal that there was a “difference of opinion” within his party over the issue of a no-confidence motion against the PTI government, which had pretty much cleared now.
“The PPP was always clear about a no-confidence motion against the federal government, but the PML-N had a difference of opinion. But now there has been consensus to a large extent in the party. This proposal will be presented before the PML-N’s central executive committee (CEC) and supremo Nawaz Sharif in a couple of days,” Mr Shehbaz announced.
Mr Shehbaz later called the party’s CEC to meet on Monday.
According to the PML-N, the party president spoke to its quaid, Nawaz, over the phone and told him about the meeting with the PPP leadership. Mr Shehbaz also spoke to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the president of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), and told him about the meeting. He said the PDM would be taken into confidence about the PML-N’s contacts with the PPP.
Both the PPP and PML-N have announced separate long marches on Islamabad with the former’s starting on Feb 27 and the latter’s March 23. Both parties have not yet confirmed whether they will stage a sit-in after reaching the capital.
In reply to a question, the opposition leader in the National Assembly said the option of a joint long march was also discussed in the meeting. “All proposals (floated by the PPP) will be presented before our allies in the PDM for a decision in a few days,” Shehbaz said, adding all “legal, constitutional and parliamentary options” had been discussed in the meeting to send the PTI government packing.
“We have gathered on a single-point agenda: to save Pakistan from further destruction, sending the PTI government home is inevitable. If we do not go for its ouster the nation will never forgive us. This crisis situation has forced us to join hands,” the PML-N leader remarked.
While speaking to the media, Mr Bilawal was more categorical, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan had to go. “The united opposition is going to send the PTI government packing. The opposition is united and will do everything constitutionally and legally possible to dislodge Imran Khan. It is the demand of the people and in the interest of the nation that Imran Khan is sent home,” he declared.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari further said: “In today’s meeting, both parties shared their plans to dislodge the PTI government. The PML-N is going to consult (the PDM) on our suggestions. The stronger working relationships are developed among the opposition parties, the more difficult it will be for the government to survive. The opposition is on the same page to get rid of the selected government.”
The PPP leader said both the parties deliberated on whether their long marches could go side by side. “The PML-N leadership has taken our suggestions very seriously,” he said and lambasted the government for making the lives of the people hell through “historic poverty, inflation and unemployment”.
Regarding the Kashmir issue, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the government had miserably failed to form a consensus on it. He also expressed concern over the increase in terrorism in the country, especially Balochistan.
When a journalist asked Maryam Nawaz if she was still upset with the PPP (over the issue of resignations), she said for the sake of people’s betterment there was a need to “move forward leaving our differences behind”.
PPP’s Hasan Murtaza and Rukhsana Bangash, and PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Saad Rafique were also present in the meeting.
No confidence motion
During the meeting, the PPP leadership talked about its old proposal of bringing a no-confidence motion against Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to test the waters before taking up the bigger challenge to topple the federal government.
The PPP hopes the PTI’s ally — PML-Q led by Chaudhry Parvez Elahi — would also support the move, if it is given the option of forming the government in Punjab. Besides, the PPP thinks disgruntled PTI stalwart Jehangir Tareen, who has the backing of around 30 MPAs from Punjab and eight MNAs, can also be wooed for the purpose. The party is reportedly in contact with Mr Tareen.
Mr Buzdar was in August 2018 elected as the Punjab chief minister with a margin of three votes against the PML-N candidate.
Earlier, the PML-N had asked Mr Bhutto-Zardari to ensure the required numbers first before considering such a move. It was of the view that after facing a setback in the Senate to oust Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, this proposal may not be viable.
Similarly, PML-N senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said the party would consider a no-confidence motion against the PTI government at the Centre or in Punjab only when it was clear that the establishment was neutral.
“To test the waters, I ask the PPP to table a no-trust motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani where the opposition has a clear and demonstrated majority,” Abbasi had told Dawn.
In August 2019, the opposition, despite having a clear majority in the Senate (67 seats out of the total 103), could not oust Mr Sanjrani after at least 14 of its members defected. The opposition blamed those they believed brought Imran Khan to power.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2022