Opposition's Lahore huddle draws strong reaction from govt

Published February 6, 2022
Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar (L) and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry (R) address a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File
Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar (L) and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry (R) address a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: Government ministers took exception to a meeting between the PPP and PML-N’s top leadership on Saturday, asserting that the two parties would be held accountable for “looting public money stashed abroad”.

The reaction came after 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 options to oust the PTI government.

They met after almost a year of strained relations over the issue of en masse resignations from assemblies.

The ministers said Mr Bilawal, Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif immediately got closer when they feared they would soon be held for their “rampant corruption and looting public money and resources”.

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who is accompanying Prime Minister Imran Khan during his visit to China, said Shehbaz Sharif used to boast that he would drag Asif Zardari in the streets and recover looted public money. He expressed surprise that Mr Bilawal and Mr Zardari personally went to see Mr Sharif at his residence in Lahore.

Fawad says ‘looters’ are united in animosity towards PM Khan

The information minister said the PTI was continuously saying that the looters in the PPP and PML-N were never separate. “They are united in the animosity towards Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said.

“At a time, when the whole nation is expressing solidarity with Kashmiris, the criminals in Pakistan are expressing solidarity with each other,” he chided, adding that they usually got together when there was some progress in their cases and actions to stop them from their criminal acts.

Mr Chaudhry said the PTI government was least affected by these meetings and added that the opposition’s alliance under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was a non-serious movement. He said PDM leaders behaved in a different manner on a daily basis.

Asad Umar, the federal planning minister and PTI’s secretary general, said the nation was anxiously waiting for this meeting, as it vividly remembered Shehbaz Sharif’s tall claims about recovering looted public money from Asif Zardari.

Instead, Mr Sharif thought it more important to join hands with Mr Zardari and save his peons Maqsoods and Masroor Anwars, he said. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has already told the nation that both Zardari and Sharif are two sides of the same coin,” he said and added that the fear of recovery of looted money had brought the two leaders closer.

Referring to PPP and PML-N’s plan of deal with the establishment, Mr Umar said that both now wanted to apply jointly for a “job”, which they could not get as individuals. He said the PTI would effectively respond to the political moves of opposition parties.

The planning minister said the nation was now recovering from the havoc played by these looters and added that the government was focused on completing its public-oriented welfare agenda.

Commenting on the Shehbaz-Zardari meeting, State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said they would neither be able to bring a no-confidence motion against the government nor could they submit their resignations with the National Assembly Speaker.

“The PTI government will not give them an NRO [a clean chit, in reference to the National Reconciliation Ordinance] despite their tactics of blackmailing,” he asserted.

The PPP and PML-N leaders were never interested in public welfare but always wanted to protect their looted money stashed abroad, he said and added, “These corrupt leaders will go to jail together.”

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2022

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