Thursday September 23, 2021

Opposition unity?

August 01, 2020

The opposition parties seem to have once hit a snag in their attempts at putting up a united front. This time the issue is the final agreement by the PML-N and the PPP to approve three bills on the Terrorism Act and the FATF which eventually made their way to parliament. The JUI-F which only days ago had stood by the opposition in stating it approved a movement against the government, had opposed the decision and accused the two major parties of backtracking on promises made earlier. Maulana Ataur Rehman, brother of Maulana Fazalur Rehman of the JUI-F, delivered fierce speeches against both parties which till very recently had stood together.

In any case, the passage of the bills raised eyebrows quite aside from the disarray within the opposition. After the bill pertaining to the National Terrorism Act was placed before the National Assembly members of the PML-N and PPP said that the amendments agreed on with the government had not been included in them. Most objectionable was a provision which opposition leaders say would have allowed a person to be picked up for up to six months without any arrest. There were also other points of contention such as the extension in the tenure of the chairperson of NAB. PPP and PML-N leaders said that all doubts over these matters should have been removed following the Supreme Court verdict in the case involving Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother and that the changes had already been made, with the government tabling the unamended forms of the bills before the NA. For its part, the government and chiefly Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said the opposition had all along sought to blackmail the government by refusing to sign the bills pertaining to the FATF until changes were made in the NAB bill. This has been denied by both major opposition parties. The JUI-F meanwhile rejects the approval of the bills altogether.

After talks between senior leaders it was agreed the amendments would be restored and the opposition which has a majority in the Senate would pass the bills pertaining to the FATF with some adjustments such as one for making only a Pakistani entity investigate the affairs of any institution or organization in the country. An emergency meeting of parliament was called to put the bills through, hopefully improving Pakistan’s chances of being removed from the FATF grey list. While the bills now await the president’s signature, we are unsure of where exactly the opposition parties stand with each other.