ISLAMABAD: Senior opposition leaders, attending Bilawal’s Iftar dinner on Sunday, will endeavour to reach consensus on a minimum common agenda against the government.
This is the first time after last year’s general elections that all the opposition parties are assembling under one roof on Bilawal’s invitation. Some of them had met immediately after the polls to discuss the electoral results but had not arrived at an agreement to boycott the assemblies because of rigging despite insistence of certain participants.
This is also the first major political show that Bilawal is hosting since jumping in politics.
The presence of Maryam Nawaz, who was recently made vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), in the Iftar as part of a party delegation, will be of special significance because she is attending such an opposition gathering for the first time.
By accepting the invite, she has also in a way reciprocated Bilawal’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore, on March 11 that was held to inquire about his health. He had dubbed it as a “sort of a historical day” as his grandfather, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari, as well as various PPP workers, had served time as political prisoners in the same jail. “I was very sad that a person who has remained the prime minister of Pakistan three times is again incarcerated here. It is 2019, and yet another prime minister is serving a sentence in Kot Lakhpat jail.”
Besides Maryam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Mahmood Achakzai, Sirajul Haq, Asfandyar Wali, Aftab Sherpao, Ataullah Mengal and Hasil Bizenjo have been invited to the Iftar.
“When opposition politicians meet, they naturally discuss how to put the government on the mat because of its incompetence and ineptitude,” senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah told The News. “The present government has a lot to answer.”
The common refrain among opposition parties is launch of a protest movement against the government after Eidul Fitr when the season would become very hot. Taking lead over everyone, the Jamaat-e-Islami has made a categorical announcement that it will start the agitation after the Eid. Other parties are still to take a firm decision. The Jamiate Ulema-e- Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is most vociferous in this connection and its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been talking about locking down Islamabad by gathering thousands of political activists in the capital. He is ready for the big kill and has mobilised his supporters by campaigning through public rallies in different areas of Pakistan over the past few weeks.
The PPP is not only more than willing to join hands with the JUI-F but is pushing every party to hurriedly kick off agitation. However, the PML-N is hesitant to join such a fray and wishes to give more time to the government to deliver or be doomed because of its dismal performance.
Opposition sources The News talked to indicated that some kind of joint protest particularly against the unparalleled economic meltdown may be decided during consultations. They say time will be required to decide about start of a full-fledged agitation to dislodge the government. However, they add that the opposition’s protest in the parliament will be severe and strong.
A day after Bilawal’s Iftar dinner, top PML-N leaders meet, as directed by Nawaz Sharif, to ponder over the possibility of out-of-parliament protest against the government’s economic policies especially the unprecedented depreciation of Pak rupees, price hike, collapse of the stock market and the deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The opposition parties’ maximum effort is to cash in on the government’s helplessness in tackling the economic downslide and uncertainty, which is equally affecting the business as well as the common people.