PPP, PML-N in a quandary over dharna participation

Bilawal doesn’t rule out participation; Shehbaz calls meeting

​ Our Correspondents November 04, 2019

BAHAWALPUR/LAHORE: The PPP and the PML-N are still in two minds over whether or not they would participate in the JUI-F’s sit-in in Islamabad as Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s religio-political party is stealing the thunder from the two major opposition parties.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday said his party had already announced that it would not participate in the JUI-F’s sit-in in Islamabad but might reconsider if its core committee decided otherwise. Similarly, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has called a party meeting on Monday (today) on the instructions of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to decide its future course of action.

“The PPP will not participate in the dharna as per our earlier announcement,” Bilawal told the media in Bahawalpur, where he was visiting the people injured in the recent Tezgam train fire.

“However, the party might think about it if its core committee decides to participate in the sit-in,” he added.

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Speaking on JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s call for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest, the PPP chairman said the cleric had not threatened the premier.

“He [Fazl] was only articulating the sentiments of the people,” he added.

Bilawal said if governments resorted to undemocratic measures, democratic forces were also compelled to take extraordinary steps.

“The people of Pakistan don’t want to continue bearing the burden of a selected government that has failed to deliver on its promises,” he maintained.

The PPP chairman assailed the PTI government’s foreign policy, questioning the decision to pursue the Kartarpur initiative despite India’s illegal and brutal actions in occupied Kashmir.

“If the situation was not as dire in occupied Kashmir, we would have encouraged this stance too. Right now, however, the government needs to clarify its foreign policy.”

The PPP chairperson also reiterated the demand for the resignation of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid in the wake of the Tezgam tragedy.

“Imran Khan was the first to demand resignations when such accidents occurred during other parties’ tenures. I hope he walks the talk now, particularly given the number of accidents on Sheikh Rashid’s watch,” he said.

“The government should investigate the train fire and ensure that the demands of the people affected by this tragic event are met.”

In September after the Maulana’s ‘Azadi March’ announcement, Bilawal had categorically said his party would not participate in the JUI-F’s sit-in in Islamabad.

“The PPP has a clear and consistent policy regarding the dharna politics in Islamabad. We were in the opposition during the sit-ins of Tahirul Qadri, Imran Khan or Tehreek-e-Labbaik and decided against participating in any of them,” he said.

However, Bilawal had warned last month that though his party did not believe in ousting the government through protests or sit-ins as it may put the democratic process in the country in jeopardy, he could be compelled to take aggressive measures like the Maulana had if the government continued with its “brutal tactics”.

Govt decides to approach Fazl directly for talks

The PML-N too has been reluctant to participate in the sit-in. PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, after attending the JUI-F rally on Friday, had told the media that his party activists were not directed to participate in the sit-in. He added that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the party’s supreme leader, had instructed them to attend the rally for a day only.

On the instructions of the party’s supreme leader Nawaz, Shehbaz has called a meeting of the party on Monday to decide its next strategy as the Maulana’s two-day deadline to the government to step down expired on the midnight of Sunday.

A PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the party leaders would discuss the options given by the JUI-F chief and share their suggestions with Nawaz for his further instructions.

“The PML-N still thinks that Maulana Fazl would have been better off if he had opted for the suggestions given to him by Nawaz Sharif in his letter,” he added.

Nawaz, he added, had suggested to the JUI-F chief that he should launch the anti-government movement in December after consulting with all opposition parties.

He further said if the opposition manages to topple the government, the next in line to rule the country was the PML-N, not the PPP or the JUI-F.

“So what we’ll do today with the sitting government, it might happen to us when we come to power. We don’t want to set a wrong precedent and cannot support a sit-in or a march to D-Chowk.”



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