ISLAMABAD: In a move that took other opposition parties by surprise, Imran Khan announced on Tuesday that his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, would boycott a joint session of parliament, which is starting today (Wednesday).
Some PTI members advised Imran that boycotting the session, which has been convened to discuss simmering tensions with India and unabated rights abuses in Indian occupied Kashmir, could dent the party’s image, according to insiders.
Imran skips conclave for leisure trip
The announcement came a day after all political parties – including the PTI – attended a huddle of parliamentary parties and party leaders hosted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the same issue. Khan skipped that session too for a leisure trip to popular holiday resort of Nathia Gali.
Analysts believe Khan’s decision would create friction between the PTI and other opposition parties. This also shows PTI’s clear intent not to bank on any other party in taking on the government on the issue of accountability of the Sharif family.
Encouraged by what it considers a ‘very successful march’ in Raiwind in terms of turnout on September 30, the PTI has decided to mobilise public for a final showdown in the federal capital after Muharram.
Senior leaders of the PPP, which holds the coveted offices of leader of the opposition in both the houses of parliament, held an emergency meeting with Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari after Imran’s announcement.
The PPP would be holding another huddle before the start of the session Wednesday afternoon to chart out its strategy for the sitting, Qamar Zaman Qaira told reporters.
The PPP has decided to attend the session and use its firepower on the floor of parliament. It would voice support for the government on the Kashmir issue, but at the same time it will castigate the government over what it calls its ‘weak foreign policy’ and shying away from a Panamagate investigation, PPP insiders said.
The PPP criticised the PTI’s decision of taking a solo flight yet another time. “We’re unable to understand the logic behind Khan’s decision. They participated in Monday’s conclave which was also convened by the prime minister” Qaira said.
He said it was illogical to say that attending parliament’s proceedings implied endorsement of the prime minister. “Nawaz Sharif is an elected prime minister and we consider him so,” he said, adding that his party has differences with the government on some crucial issue.
Before Khan made the announcement, there were dissenting voices within his core committee. There was a heated debate between party’s senior leaders during the meeting that continued for more than two hours.
“We have decided not to attend the joint session because we believe the prime minister has lost his legitimacy,” said Khan, while addressing a news conference at his residence.
Party members told The Express Tribune in background interviews that some PTI members advised the chairman that boycotting the session would dent the party’s image. However, those who favoured a boycott argued the PTI has given its positive stance in Monday’s conference.
“Going further will be deleterious for the party’s future plans of street protests, especially when the party has already announced to shut the capital after Muharram,” they said.
PTI to boycott joint parliamentary session on Kashmir
PTI lawmaker Ali Muhammad Khan reportedly went a step further to say that the party lawmakers had been drawing salaries from the national kitty, but did not play any effective role in the legislature. But he was snubbed by Khan.
Senior leaders like Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shafqat Mehmood also had reservations over the decision, sources added.
PTI lawmaker Asad Umar confirmed to The Express Tribune that there was difference of opinion over some ‘issues’ and added that everyone has his own views which is beauty of democracy. Umar confirmed that a heated debate continued for a while because some participants favoured a boycott while others opposed the idea.
During his press talk, the PTI chairman said his party strongly supported the cause of Kashmir and “the decision will not hurt the cause of Kashmiris”. He said his party has given strong input in Monday’s meeting because the government’s resolution over Kashmir was weak and the PTI strengthened it.
“If we [the PTI] attend the joint session, then it will mean that we’re endorsing the prime minister who has actually lost his legitimacy,” Khan said, while giving two options to the premier: resign or bring in an in-house change.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2016.
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