Opposition contemplates anti-govt steps at APC

ISLAMABAD: Leaders of major opposition parties have gathered at a hotel in Islamabad for a much-anticipated All Parties Conference (APC) aimed at discussing possibilities of launching an anti-government protest movement from a single platform. The APC is expected to begin shortly.

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The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have formed special teams to attend the APC being hosted by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) with a view to ensuring the presence of their MNAs in the National Assembly during the budget voting process.

The Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), which had been attending opposition meetings despite being a member of the treasury benches, decided not to attend the APC on Wednesday. In a written message sent to the APC head Maulana Fazlur Rehman, BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal asked the opposition to take his party’s recommendations into consideration.

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

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a major opposition party, had already distanced itself from the APC.

Prior to the APC, the parliamentary opposition parties held a separate meeting inside the NA to devise their strategy for the budget session.

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; 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.

Shehbaz, during the APC, said the opposition would make every effort to make the APC called by Maulana Fazl a success. He said he is willing to play his part in preventing the “anti-masses” federal budget 2019-20 from getting passed in the assembly and also to stop the incumbent government from functioning.

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.

Fazlur Rahman, while addressing the APC, alleged the government of coming into power by rigging and said the opposition should unite on one platform against the government. He further alleged that the acts of the National Accountability Court (NAB) are biased.

Sources said that in the session, Fazl urged the opposition leaders to give collective resignations in all assemblies in order to put the government under pressure but some major opposition parties expressed reservations over the proposal.

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

Sources added that Fazl further asked the leaders to observe ‘Black Day’ on July 25.

According to sources, participant parties of APC decided to bring a no-confidence motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani as opposition’s steering committee will decide the new member to be put for Senate Chairman’s candidacy.

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

The opposition parties consulted on the dismissing Sanjrani, preventing the budget from getting passed from both houses, anti-government campaign and a possible lockdown of the capital city in the APC.

According to the official notification issued by the APC, the opposition parties concluded that the incumbent government, whom they alleged to have come into power by rigging the election, has sabotaged the economy and all the parties partaking in the APC have rejected the government and the federal budget.

Earlier, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz met her uncle, Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, at the Ministers Enclave to discuss matters related to the opposition meet-up.

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

In the meeting, Maulana Fazl had called for launching a full-blown anti-government movement soon after Eidul Fitr, saying that they “are already too late”. But PPP and PML-N initially did not respond well to the suggestion.

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