LAHORE, Dec 9: A crucial meeting of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) failed on Sunday to evolve a consensus on the election boycott issue and allowed heads of components parties to take whatever decision they deemed suitable for their parties.

Pakistan Muslim League (N) leaders Raja Zafarul Haq and Iqbal Zafar Jhagra announced the failure of the alliance in agreeing to a joint stand on the issue after a marathon seven-hour meeting, presided over by Mian Nawaz Sharif at his Model Town residence.

The closed-door meeting was attended by heads and representatives of 15 parties of the APDM, including Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Imran Khan and Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI (F) abstained from the meeting while a senior member of the JUI (S) represented party chief Maulana Samiul Haq. Mr Sharif was supposed to share the decisions of the meeting with the press but he and other leaders chose to avoid journalists.

Raja Zafar claimed that despite the disagreement on the core issue of whether to contest or boycott the elections, the APDM was ‘intact’ and would meet again, if required.

He parried a question about which of the parties wanted a boycott and which pressed for contesting it.

“This detail cannot be shared here. Each party will take its own decision whether to contest the elections or not,” he said.

Insiders said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Mehmood Khan Achakzai pressed for a boycott while PML-N’s leader Nawaz Sharif, Awami National Party’s Ahsan Wyne and Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith’s Prof Sajid Mir said that the field should not be left open to others.

The PML(N’s) reported point of view was that the APDM parties should launch an election drive but, at the same time, declare that they would withdraw from the race if their demands were not met by Jan 5.

Talking to Dawn, PML(N) leader Ishaq Dar, who presented at the meeting a report of the committee which had held talks with Ms Bhutto on APDM’s charter of demands, said the two sides had disagreed on two points.

The number one issue they could not sort out was related to the restoration of the deposed judges.

“We wanted to take a joint stand about the elections in consultation with the joint opposition. But unfortunately we failed to come up with a joint decision as the PPP and the JUI are contesting them. And my point of view is that we should not leave the field open to others,” said Mr Dar, who is considered a close aide to Mr Sharif.

Raja Zafar said the participating parties endorsed the alliance’s charter of demands which included the restoration of the judges who did not take oath under the PCO as its first point.

They also formulated a plan to run a country-wide campaign to mobilise public opinion in favour of the demands.

“No consensus could be evolved on whether the alliance should boycott the elections or not. But it was accepted that the component parties could adopt either of the two courses,” he said.

He was unwilling to reveal the PML(N’s) stand at the meeting.

“We will decide it after the party meeting,” he asserted.

However, he said, Mr Sharif was launching a ‘public contact’ campaign with a visit to Faisalabad on Monday. Later, he said, the PML(N) leader would visit Karachi for two days.

“He will visit the entire country,” he said.

When asked about the Dec 15 deadline the APDM had given to the government for acceptance of its charter of demands, Raja Zafar said that the alliance would now present the demands to the people through its ‘mass contact campaign’.

“This is the best way of pressurising the government,” he said, adding that the PML(N) would decide later whether it wanted to consult the PPP over its new strategy.

“Right now Ms Bhutto is in Dubai,” he said, implying that a contact could not be established immediately.

In its last meeting in Lahore on Nov 29, the APDM had announced that it would boycott the election if the government failed to accept its charter of demands by Dec 15.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who had not attended that meeting as well, disagreed with the idea of boycotting the polls. Maulana Samiul Haq and the ANP had attended the meeting but did not support the decision.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad had supported the idea but left a final decision on the APDM. However, Imran Khan had taken a clear stand from the beginning of the electoral process that even the filing of nomination papers would be tantamount to accepting all ‘illegitimate actions’ of Gen Musharraf.

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