ISLAMABAD: Apparently gaining heart from Saturday’s rally in Taxila to mark the beginning of its anti-government campaign, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to go ahead with a ‘solo flight’ instead of with the original idea of forming a grand opposition alliance.
The main opposition party seems to have given up on plans to seek long-term political cooperation with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan. The group has decided not to take any formal step to build on an announcement by PML-N President Nawaz Sharif to approach all political forces hostile to the government including Khan’s party for its mass movement.
Last week, the PML-N unveiled a plan for a series of rallies across major cities of Punjab and vowed to culminate the campaign with a long march on Islamabad to push for the ouster of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after his conviction by the Supreme Court in a contempt case.
A spokesperson for the PML-N told The Express Tribune on Sunday the party would not contact Imran for a joint struggle against the government because his condition of resigning from the assemblies was ‘too tough to be accepted’ at least for now.
“Mian Sahib wholeheartedly and sincerely announced that the PML-N will approach PTI … But the very next day Khan came up with a resignation demand. It is not possible for us to be dictated to like that,” said MNA Khurram Dastgir Khan, the opposition party’s deputy information secretary.
Though the MNA from Gujranwala did not give any other reason for shying away from Imran, insiders said the decision was a result of the outcome of Saturday’s rally in Taxila which, according to critics, was an impressive show.
“We have gained a lot of heart from the success of our first rally … we’re hoping to keep up the momentum and don’t think cooperation from Imran is needed anymore,” a party leader said from Lahore.
He said there was an informal session in Lahore in which the main opposition party assessed its Taxila rally and reviewed plans for future events scheduled for this and next week. “We now think we can do it alone,” the official said, who was aware of the discussion at the meeting.
But Dastgir said the PML-N was continuing talks with other opposition groups including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to forge long-term cooperation with them leading up to the next general elections.
He, however, did not reveal who was spearheading negotiations with the fellow rightwing parties and what their response had been so far.
JUI-F wasn’t forthcoming when Sharif announced the launch of a mass movement against the government, advising him to wait for the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict for clarity on Gilani’s disqualification.
The JI was the only religious party that apparently accepted Sharif’s offer of cooperation but its leaders were not present at the Taxila rally.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.