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March 24, 2020

PM not to attend parliamentary group leaders’ meeting tomorrow

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan who is also leader of House in National Assembly and parliamentary head of the ruling PTI will not attend the parliamentary groups leaders meeting of the Senate and National Assembly (NA) which has been summoned by NA Speaker tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon here at the Parliament House.

The meeting will discuss the situation regarding coronavirus outbreak and its fiscal impact on country’s economy. The gathering will also evolve methods to overcome the fallout of the virus.

Well-placed Parliamentary sources told The News here Monday evening that leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif who returned from London after staying there more than four weeks late last week would attend the meeting. He was the first to be contacted by the Speaker and Shahbaz consented to turn up for the moot.

The meeting that has been scheduled contrary to the medical advice pertains to avoid gathering and maintaining social distancing, would be first of its kind in 19 months of the National Assembly.

The sources said that the parliamentary leaders of various groups in the two houses of the Parliament will be briefed about the prevailing and emerging situation. It will specifically deliberate about one-point agenda catering coronavirus and its economic bearing. The parliamentary leaders will also discuss a proposal to constitute a committee of the parliamentary stalwarts to monitor situation and provide guidance to the government on the matter, the sources said.

Shahbaz Sharif who has been consigned by ailing former prime minister and Quaid of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif from London to express solidarity with his people in the taxing times, has already discussed the issue with the experts, would put up solid proposals to combat the challenge. He demanded for countrywide lock down a day earlier and despite reluctance on the part of the prime minister, the same has been clamped and the Army has taken over the implementation of the orders.

Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani had detailed discussions with the Speaker for tomorrow’s meeting as he will be co-hosting the event.

Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, leader of opposition in Senate and Chairman PML-N, will be among the participants of the parliamentary leaders meeting. The government will be represented by Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Senator Azam Khan Swati who is also leader of the PTI Parliamentary group in Senate, Leader of House in Senate Shibli Faraz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Economic Affairs Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and SAPM on Health.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who used to represent the government in such parliamentary gatherings and political discussion is missing in the list of participants. The 12 parliamentary leaders including PTI, PML-N, PPP, MMAP, PML, MQMP, GDA, AMLP, BNP, ANP, BAP and JWP in the National Assembly and in equal number in Senate including ANP, BAP, BNP, JI, JUI, MQM, NP, PML-F, PML-N, PPP, PTI and PKMAP will participate in the meeting. Three parties consist of one member each in National Assembly will also attend the parliamentary leaders meeting as full fledge partner, the sources said.

The sources said that Shahbaz Sharif who has also planned to join the opposition parties’ APC being convened by the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will discuss with his fellow colleagues in the opposition about the arrangement of the APC.