The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) has decided to boycott the upcoming joint session of parliament in protest against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis and increasing frequency of US drone attacks in tribal regions.
President Asif Ali Zardari is supposed to address the joint session of the National Assembly and Senate scheduled for March 22.
The PML-Q took the decision at a party meeting in Lahore on Sunday following the failure of its talks with the government over the arrest of Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, sources told The Express Tribune. Moonis Elahi, the son of former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, is currently being quizzed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in the National Insurance Company Limited scam.
FIA’s Additional Director-General Zafar Ahmad Qureshi will present the findings of interrogation in the Supreme Court today (March 21). Elahi is likely to be declared a culprit in the multi-billion-rupee scam. Sources said that PML-Q supremo Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his aides had met President Zardari at the Presidency on March 11 to take up Elahi’s matter with him.
President Zardari, however, refused to commit anything, saying that he would discuss the issue with Interior Minister Rehman Malik because his ministry looks after the affairs of the FIA.
Sources said that Hussain had offered his party’s support to the PPP-led coalition government at the centre as at that time the MQM was considering parting ways with the government.
Hussain reportedly wanted the FIA declare Elahi innocent in its investigation report to be presented in the apex court today.
When Elahi was arrested by the FIA on March 17, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat contacted the presidency to seek his release. But the government informed them that the FIA chief had refused to cooperate with Malik and even threatened to inform the Supreme Court if he was pressured in the case. The Chaudhrys were however reluctant to buy this argument.
In Sunday’s meeting, the PML-Q strongly criticised, what it called, ‘dubious role’ of Malik in the Elahi case and decided to boycott the presidential address to the joint session of parliament in protest.
The Q-League would, however, agitate the issues of Davis’ release and drone attacks to show its resentment against the government.
Hussain, sources said, would meet JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday (today) to persuade him to join them in their protest. Sources said that the PML-Q is confident to win over the JUI-F’s support for the boycott of parliament’s session. But it is not sure about getting support from the MQM.
PML-Q spokesperson Kamil Ali Agha told journalists after Sunday’s meeting that his party would boycott Zardari’s address and would stage a protest outside the Parliament House against Davis’ release and drone attacks in tribal areas.
He said that Hussain has contacted Dr Toosi, a common friend of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and the PML-Q supremo, to enquire about the health of Sharif. He said that Dr Toosi has conveyed Hussain’s message to Sharif in the hospital.
The PML-Q announcement to boycott the joint session of parliament came a day after government negotiators failed to convince the PML-N to drop its plans for ‘spoiling’ the presidential address.
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who belongs to the PML-N, had refused to commit smooth sailing for presidential address.
In Islamabad, the JUI-F has convened a meeting of its parliamentarians on Monday to chalk out plan for the presidential address. Though there was no official word, individuals close to Maulana Fazl said the party was most likely to go for boycott.
But interestingly, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani appeared to be not overwhelmed by the tough task of winning over the opposition parties. He is preparing to launch from Monday a charm offensive to make sure that Zardari did not face any serious interruption during his address a day later.
Gilani convened a meeting of parliamentarians from the parties allied to his government, including the MQM. But it was not immediately known whether or not the MQM would attend the meeting.
With additional reporting by Zia Khan in Islamabad
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2011.