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May 21, 2019

Bilawal’s Iftar: Opposition to work on mode, timing of joint movement


May 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties, in their consultations at Bilawal’s Iftar, disagreed on the mode and timing to launch a joint anti-government movement, but concurred to piling up pressure on the regime inside the Parliament.

The stands projected by the parties during discussions showed that some of them were keen to quickly start a street agitation as they did not want to give any time to the government, while others pressed for more time for contemplation and reflection before embarking upon this trajectory, a participant of the gathering told The News.

He said that because of having various opinions on the mode and timing of the movement the opposition leaders decided that Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman should host an all parties’ conference (APC) after Eidul Fitr to evolve a consensus on the movement and chalk out a plan for it.

“The leaders opined that no street protest can be launched at the spur of a moment and elaborate preparations are required to be made before it. They stated that anything done in a haste may backfire.”

The participant said the opposition parties were as a whole satisfied over the fact that they assembled under one umbrella and vowed to work together by sorting out their difference of opinion in some aspects.

“Our utmost goal is to agree on a minimum common agenda that we can carry out, and the platform for it is the APC to be hosted by Falzur Rehman.”

He said that Fazlur Rehman wasn’t inclined to lose even a day in kicking off the movement and thus emphasised his previous aggressive stand. “The JUI-F chief has a large hard core, committed following that he can mobilise in a short span of time to join a show of power.” According to the participant, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) shared Fazlur Rehman’s opinion and wanted to go for the kill. Previously, he said, the PPP was strongly opposed to creating any commotion. The PPP has now announced that in any case it is going to unfold its protest public campaign after Eid.

Another participant told this correspondent that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stressed during deliberations at Bilawal’s Iftar that the opposition’s joint protest should be powerful and result-oriented.

The participant said the government shouldn’t be let go on the havoc it has played with the economy. On its part, the PML-N is also starting a series of public rallies after Eid as part of its protest campaign. The star speaker will be Maryam Nawaz to be accompanied by Hamza Shahbaz.

The participant said the Awami National Party (ANP) of Asfandyar Wali, National Party (NP) of Hasil Bizenjo and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Achakzai articulated the opinion that the government, which was the product of electoral manipulation, should not be given much time and a protest movement should be immediately started. He said the ANP, PkMAP and NP expressed the view that they would make substantial contributions to any movement, agreed among the opposition parties, in the areas where they have influence.

The participant said that Aftab Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) emphasised that appropriate groundwork should be properly done before launching the protest campaign because a half-hearted movement would not bring any dividends to the opposition parties but would rather damage them. He wanted that different powerful segments of society like the business community should be taken on board.

The Jamaat-e-Islami is not going to be part of the opposition’s joint protest of any kind as it has announced that it is starting its own independent movement after Eid. It also has gross differences with Fazlur Rehman although it shares with him the platform of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

A representative of Sardar Akhtar Mengal-led Balochistan National Party (BNP), which is an uneasy ally of the federal ruling coalition, also attended the Iftar, but refrained from making any comments on joining any protest movement. An important feature of the get-together was that Maryam and Bilawal have started developing political rapport. The process began when Bilawal accompanying his father Zardari had visited Nawaz Sharif in Raiwind to condole his wife’s death. Maryam was present on the occasion. Later, in a rare gesture Bilawal met Nawaz Sharif in jail.

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