ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani political leadership will set aside their differences today Monday when they put on a show of national unity in the wake of hostile posturing by an increasingly belligerent India. All but two political groups have been invited to a conclave of leaders of the country’s parliamentary parties in the federal capital.
However, the snub to the Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and All Pakistan Muslim League of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf drew scathing criticism from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf which says the move reflects the ‘intolerant mindset’ of the PML-N government.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif convened the meeting to muster support of all political parties on escalating tensions with India and unabated rights abuses in Indian occupied Kashmir. Apart from parliamentary leaders of all parties, their heads have also been invited to the important meet-up.
The AML and APML have been deliberately left out. It is surprising because even those political groups which have only one-member representation in parliament have been invited to the meeting.
All the parties invited have confirmed their participation. The PTI, PPP, MQM, JI, JUI-F, ANP, PML-Q, PML-F, PML-Zia, Qaumi Watan Party, PkMAP, NP, BNP-Awami, BNP-Mengal, NPP and the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad-Pakistan have confirmed they will attend the meeting, according to sources in the Prime Minister House. “Whether or not all of them will show up is a different matter,” one source added.
The timing of the meeting is significant, because Imran Khan’s PTI is spearheading a vociferous campaign against the ruling PML-N over the Panamagate scandal. On Friday, the PTI staged a huge rally in the hometown of the ruling Sharif family where he threatened to shut the federal capital, if the government did not hold an independent inquiry into the Panama leaks in Muharram.
The parliamentary parties’ huddle will set the tone for a joint session of parliament which is scheduled to convene on Wednesday (October 5) to discuss India’s hostilities and IOK situation. “It is a clever move by the government to soften up rival parties to ensure smooth-sailing in the joint session of parliament,” a second source said.
“We have offered an olive branch to the opposition that we see outside parliament,” a senior PML-N leader told The Express Tribune. Though he didn’t name any party, it is understood he was referring to the PTI. “Moreover, Monday’s meet-up is a preparatory session for the joint session of parliament,” he said requesting not to be named in the report.
On July 15, a special meeting of the cabinet decided to convene a joint session of parliament on the IOK situation. The plan was quietly shelved due to growing tensions between the government and the opposition. However, the recent uptick in hostilities with India prompted calls from political parties for a joint session of parliament. “Now, the onus is on the opposition which has called for convening the parliamentary session.”
PTI Chairman Imran Khan came down hard on the government for not inviting AML chief Sheikh Rashid to the parliamentary huddle. “It reflects a petty and intolerant mindset,” he wrote on popular micro-blogging site Twitter.
Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq tried to defend the government decision. “I cannot comment on the specifics since I’m not directly privy to the matter. But I can say that the purpose of this meeting is to evolve a collective strategy by sending out a strong message that the Pakistani nation is united against India and in support of Kashmir,” he told The Express Tribune.
“If the presence of some individuals may result in otherwise, there is nothing wrong in exercising the option [of keeping them out],” he added alluding that Sheikh Rashid, who is more vocal in criticism of the ruling party, might create problems in the meeting. “Any deviation from our national goal is not affordable.”
Senator Haq, however, was all praise for the government decision to convene Monday’s huddle of political leadership. “National strength lies in political and parliamentary unity on national issues. By taking political parties and parliament into loop, the government wants to convey a strong message that no matter how serious political differences are, we are one on national issues.”
Courtesy : Express Tribune