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February 14, 2020

Erdogan’s address to parliament: Opposition parties to be in attendance unlike PTI’s boycott in 2016

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February 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties will attend the parliament session to listen to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech unlike the boycott of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of a similar joint sitting over three years back.

“President Erdogan is the guest of all of us, Pakistan, and not the PTI only. Therefore, we will be present in the parliament session to hear his address on Friday,” senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq told The News.

He said the opposition would never repeat a bad precedent set by the PTI. “Pakistan has excellent relations with the Turkish president, which tremendously improved during the tenure of the PML-N government as Ankara strengthen economic relations as well.”

Ayaz Sadiq said that the tension between the opposition parties and the PTI was now not less than what it was three years ago. “But while opposing the government, we have not lost senses and are in no mood to cross all limits. Our participation in the joint sitting will give an excellent message to President Erdogan.”

He said that the Turkish president stood out among the world leaders in supporting Pakistan when India annexed the occupied Kashmir in August last year. Not only that, he has been backing the Kashmir cause all along, which Pakistanis value too much.

Last time, President Erdogan visited Pakistan in November 2016 on the invitation of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The trip took place amid heightened confrontation between the government and PTI that had intensified due to the 2014 sit-ins by the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

Imran Khan had said at the time that the PTI lawmakers stayed away the parliamentary session, addressed by President Erdogan, because his party does not consider Nawaz Sharif as prime minister of Pakistan anymore and the boycott was not due to the Turkish leader.

Ayaz Sadiq said that the opposition parties undoubtedly consider Imran Khan as the selected prime minister who clinched this office as a result of fake general elections, but still they would be in attendance in the joint sitting to show respect to President Erdogan. “We have many opportunities and forums to settle political scores, but not when a foreign friend is speaking to the Parliament.”

While declaring to refrain from the joint session, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi had stated that since the prime minister was controversial for facing corruption charges, his party would boycott the sitting.

Qureshi said the PTI considered Turkey a “sincere friend” of Pakistan and a brother Islamic state. He also said his party has great respect for the Turkish president. “But the PTI has a clear perspective on the Panamagate case, being heard by the Supreme Court.”

He said he had been trying to contact the Turkish ambassador in Islamabad, seeking an appointment for a meeting between Erdogan and the PTI leadership. “We want to pay a courtesy call under Imran Khan on the Turkish president during his stay Pakistan. The PTI would inform the visiting dignitary of their decision to stay away from the Parliament and discuss prospects for improved ties between Turkey and Pakistan.”

The PML-N government had attempted hard to persuade the PTI leadership to reconsider its boycott decision as a goodwill gesture to prevent possible embarrassment to Pakistan during the Turkish president’s visit.

On his part, Ayaz Sadiq, as the speaker, had also tried to prevail upon the PTI to change its mind and welcome President Erdogan, who is guest of Pakistan and not one party only. It happened for the first time that the opposition boycotted the parliamentary address of a foreign friend, who has stood with Pakistan in difficult times.