Opposition leaders mull anti-government steps at multiparty conference

Leaders of PPP, PML-N and other opposition parties have gathered at a hotel in Islamabad for a much-anticipated multiparty conference (MPC) aimed at discussing possibilities of launching an anti-government protest campaign from a single platform.

The PPP and the PML-N had constituted special teams to attend the MPC being hosted by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) with a view to ensuring the presence of their MNAs in the National Assembly during the voting process on the budget.

The Balochistan National Party (Mengal), which had been attending opposition meetings despite sitting on the treasury benches, decided against attending the MPC on Wednesday. In a written message sent to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal asked the opposition to consider his party’s recommendations. The Jamaat-i-Islami, which is sitting on the opposition benches, had already distanced itself from the MPC.

Mengal today led a delegation of his party to a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan. No details of the meeting were immediately available.

Shahbaz during the MPC urged the opposition to unite in order to “take the nation out of their hardship”. He said the nation is reeling under the “anti-people” budget presented by the government and the opposition should strive together to make the budget unsuccessful.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said the national economy was in an “abject” shape and the people were looking towards the opposition for relief. “Our fight is not with [Prime Minister] Imran Khan but with those who selected him,” she was quoted as saying by sources close to the meeting.

According to sources, Maulana Fazl suggested that opposition parties should tender resignations in all assemblies in order to build pressure on the government, but some major opposition parties expressed reservations over the proposal.

Meanwhile, ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan suggested that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani should be replaced in order to earn the nation’s trust for the opposition, the sources said.

An 11-member committee was formed to formulate the joint statement of the MPC after taking into consideration all recommendations.

Prior to the MPC, the parliamentary parties of the opposition held a separate meeting inside the National Assembly to formulate their strategy for the budget session.

Earlier, Maryam met her uncle, Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, at the Ministers Enclave to discuss matters related to the opposition moot.

Speaking to reporters in the parliament, Shahbaz said the opposition would make every effort to make the MPC called by Maulana Fazl a success.

Prominent among those attending the MPC being chaired by Maulana Fazl are: Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ayaz Sadiq and Raja Zafarul Haq from the PML-N; Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Sherry Rehman, Raza Rabbani, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Farhatullah Babar from the PPP; Asfandyar Wali Khan, Mian Iftikhar and Ameer Haider Khan Hoti of the Awami National Party; National Party President Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo; Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai; and Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, among others.

The decision to hold the MPC had been made by the leaders of 11 opposition parties during a well-attended Iftar dinner hosted by Bilawal in Islamabad last month. The dinner was also attended by Maryam and Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz.

In the meeting, Maulana Fazl had called for launching a full-fledged anti-government movement soon after Eidul Fitr, saying that they “are already too late”. But his proposal was not warmly received by the PPP and the PML-N.

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