• Bilawal rules out further wait for 100pc guarantee of no-trust move’s success
• Chan quits ruling party to rejoin PPP
• Islamabad officials urged not to serve PTI’s interests
ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Struggling to achieve the required numbers to move a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly, the leadership of the country’s two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — on Sunday directed their lawmakers to cancel their foreign visits, if any, and ensure their presence in Islamabad for the next few days.
In the wake of reports that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is planning to arrange some foreign visits of the lawmakers in an apparent move to fizzle out the opposition’s no-trust move plan, the leaders of the two parties have also directed their respective members not to become part of any official delegation for any foreign tour.
While speaking to the media at the residence of Nadeem Afzal Chan, who quit the ruling PTI to rejoin the opposition party, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in response to a question about the chances of their success and the neutrality of establishment said whether the establishment was neutral or not would become evident in the next few days. No one could give 100 per cent guarantee of the success of a no-confidence motion, but if they were to wait for such a guarantee, this misery would continue, he said.
In Islamabad, political tensions have begun to rise as the PPP’s long march left Lahore for the federal capital as per plan while the local administration has yet to grant a permission to the PPP to hold a public meeting at the famous D-Chowk, right in front of the Parliament House building on the Constitution Avenue.
Hours after a PPP delegation held talks with the representatives of the local administration on Sunday afternoon, party’s secretary general Nayyar Bokhari announced they would hold the planned public meeting at D-Chowk, come what may, and warned the government against creating any obstacles in the way of the marchers who are expected to enter the capital city tomorrow (Tuesday).
Addressing party workers in Kahuta, Mr Bokhari reminded the Islamabad administration officials that the PPP had adopted a legal and democratic way to hold the public rally and asked the officials to desist from becoming ‘servant’ of the PTI by removing hurdles in the way of peaceful protest.
The PPP’s Islamabad chapter had last week formally submitted an application to the local administration of Islamabad, informing it about its plan to hold the public meeting at 4pm on Tuesday at D-Chowk, the place where the PTI had staged a 126-day-long sit-in against the PML-N government in 2014.
PPP’s information secretary Shazia Marri in a statement on Sunday said Mr Bhutto-Zardari had asked the party lawmakers to “ensure their presence in Islamabad”, cancel their foreign visits, if any, and “refrain” from undertaking even any official foreign tour.
In a separate statement, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed that the party leadership had issued directives to its MNAs to stay in Islamabad. She said keeping in view the prevailing price-hike and unemployment in the country, the PML-N had decided that its members would no more undertake official visits as part of any official delegation to be constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.
“Spending taxpayers’ money on foreign trips at a time when the people are under duress due to price-hike and unemployment will be nothing but corruption and dacoity,” said Ms Aurangzeb, who had served as the information minister in the PML-N government. She expressed the hope that the PTI members who realized the pain and sufferings of the inflation-hit masses would also refuse to become part of any such foreign tour at this crucial time.
The directives were issued by the leadership of the two parties after the nine-party alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement and the PPP on Saturday agreed to accelerate their efforts to negotiate with the ruling party’s allies on more ‘solid terms’ before announcing a date for tabling the no-confidence motion.
‘Wait won’t end misery’
Admitting that the passage of a no-trust motion against the prime minister was ‘not an easy task’, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told reporters in Lahore that the ‘extreme step’ was necessary to steer the country out of crises on multiple fronts.
“We’ve to take the extreme step to steer the country out of the economic, political and foreign policy crises the incumbent government has created. None can guarantee a 100 per cent success. This oppression will continue if [we] wait for the 100 percent guarantee,” the PPP chairman said while answering questions at the residence of Mr Chan.
In reply to a question about the success of no-trust move, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said: “Yes, it is a difficult task. None can term it to be an easy one. But our duty is to make the effort and we think that this is worth the risk.” He vowed not to sit idle until achieving the objective of removal of the ‘selected’ [from power corridors] even if the no-trust motion remained abortive.
Asked about neutrality of the state institutions during the no-trust process, he said the neutrality would be put to test within days. “All and sundry will see who is neutral and who is not when the no-trust motion will be tabled,” he observed.
About the opposition efforts to win over the government allies despite claims of having more than the required number for the no-confidence move, the PPP chairman said the role of the [government’s] allies was very crucial, as this would brighten chances of success. Just like a candidate who visits each and every voter to seek their support in an election, they were also approaching everyone who could extend a helping hand against the rulers, he elaborated.
In reply to the question if the opposition would go first for claiming the head of the National Assembly speaker or of the prime minister, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said it was a matter of strategy, which would be soon finalised by Asif Ali Zardari, Shehbaz Sharif and Maulana Fazl. In his personal opinion, he said, the no-confidence motion should be tabled against both.
He also defended the party’s decision of taking out a long march on Islamabad, arguing the step had put the maximum possible pressure on the government which, having no organic majority in the parliament, was compelled to contact parliamentarians.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2022