Generous servings of fruit helped bring together an otherwise-divided opposition.
In what could prove to be a major setback for the government, the country’s key opposition parties huddled on Saturday and hinted at rejecting draft recommendations on foreign policy submitted by a parliamentary panel.
While the government, with its coalition partners, has a majority in Parliament and can have the recommendations approved, it might still attempt to win the opposition back for a joint ownership of key foreign policy recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) when the joint session of Parliament resumes on Monday, March 26.
The opposition’s rejection is likely to further delay normalisation of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States.
The government would not risk irking the opposition in the election year, and subsequent street agitation, if it bulldozes the recommendations through Parliament, without taking the opposition on board, sources said.
The main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has already decided to oppose the draft recommendations formulated by the PCNS with an aim to appease its right-wing vote bank.
Key recommendations include reopening of Nato supply lines, albeit with additional financial charges.
The PML-N has simultaneously been contacting other opposition parties to convince them to oppose the recommendations.
Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Aftab Khan Sherpao of Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao and Salim Saifullah Khan of the PML-Q (Likeminded group) met at the residence of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Saturday to discuss their future course of action.
Sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune that the opposition leaders decided to vote against the recommendations.
“The decision either to boycott the proceedings during the voting or voting against the resolution will be taken during a meeting scheduled for Monday,” sources said. “It is my hunch that the opposition cannot converge [with the government] over this issue,” Salim Saifullah told The Express Tribune.
Citing non-implementation of pervious parliamentary resolutions and Supreme Court orders, he said: “What guarantee is there that the government will implement the parliamentary recommendations?”
The final decision regarding the opposition’s strategy will be taken on Monday, he said, adding, with a hint of skepticism, that “nothing is absolute in politics,” and that there could be last-minute changes.
The government will not be allowed to hijack Parliament for its personal gains, said Maulana Fazlur Rehman while addressing the media after the meeting.
“If the government gets the recommendations approved due to its numerical strength, it would be a policy of the government and not a collective stand of Parliament,” he added.
In an attempt to disown the proposed recommendations drafted by the all-party, bicameral PCNS, the maulana said that representatives of the opposition had expressed their reservations during the proceedings of the panel.
Chaudhry Nisar remained vague in his critique and said his strategy would be “to press the government to formulate a policy in accordance with the needs of national security.”
“We are least bothered if anyone gets annoyed with our strategy. We will keep our national interests in mind when we go to the session on Monday,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.