Shujaat urges govt, opp to call off D-Chowk rallies

Says Pakistan cannot afford 'dangerous confrontation'


Our Correspondent March 15, 2022

ISLAMABAD:

Amid an intensifying stare-down between government and opposition, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) senior leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain raised alarms on Tuesday and urged both the camps to back down and cancel their political gatherings for the sake of the country.

In a statement, Shujaat, whose party has yet to decide who to side with on the no-confidence motion, said Pakistan cannot afford “dangerous [political] confrontation” in light of the “unfavourable economic and political situation”.

The PML-Q chief's statement comes as the political situation turned more volatile and churned up political storm after both the government and opposition announced they will hold rallies in a bid to flex their muscles on the fateful day of no-confidence vote in front of the Parliament.

On Sunday, hours after the government announced a “mammoth” rally to deter the party lawmakers from supporting the no-confidence motion against Imran, the opposition leaders gave a call to workers and supporters to march towards the federal capital in order to counter the ruling party's rally.

JUI-F and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, "We are going to do a lot. We are going to make them [incumbent government] regret threatening us.” He vowed a tit-for-tat response, saying, "The water is over the dam for the government."

Advising to cool off the rising political temperature, Shujaat said the politics of rallies and gatherings was expected from the opposition but the government’s decision to take out the rallies to counter the opposition was baffling.

This political competition could have dangerous repercussions for Pakistan as “enemies of Pakistan” could take advantage of such a situation. He added that the political parties should not incite their followers to violence.

"Instead of making this a matter of ego, the political parties should participate in the voting process in a democratic manner," he advised.

Reacting to the criticism on PML-Q by the government officials, Shujaat said those who were referring to the PML-Q as a “small party” have forgotten the “major decisions” it made for democracy and Pakistan. “Our politics has always been about national interest,” he added.

‘Opp rally sign of weakness'

However, both government ministers and opposition leaders continued trading barbs a day after they announced their respective rallies, taking up the political heat a few more notches up.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to the media in Islamabad, said the opposition lacked enough numerical backing to make its no-trust motion successful. He wondered as to why the opposition felt the need to hold a rally if it enjoyed sufficient support.

“Their announcement for a march proves that their numbers are incomplete and they have differences within their ranks," he said.

Qureshi took a dig at the joint opposition front for lacking a consensus and clarity over the political arrangement and the kind of government apparatus they wished to see after toppling the government.

"What will be the future setup, who will be the next prime minister ... They don't have any consensus on it. Their ideology, destination, manifesto are all different," he added.

Qureshi clarified that the government’s planned rally on March 27 was not a "sit-in", adding it was only a public gathering where PM Khan will address the public.

'Not even million people can stop us’

Meanwhile, senior PML-N leader and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the PTI-led government cannot prevent the lawmakers from voting on no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Speaking to the media outside accountability court, Abbasi asked the ruling party to ensure support of 172 MNAs in National Assembly against no-trust vote instead of gathering one million people in Islamabad.

“Even a million people will not be able to stop the no-confidence motion. I dare prime minister and the federal ministers to stop [the lawmakers] from attending the assembly session,” he challenged.

Abbasi said PM Imran has resorted to using “abusive language” against his opponents because he had already “lost” the political battle.

“The government is taking to the streets instead of [facing no-trust motion] in parliament shows that the government has already collapsed,” he added.

'Stop creating fuss'

Lashing out at the opposition for “creating fuss”, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak the opposition’s efforts against the government will only result in embarrassment.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad, he said, "We will not stop anyone or commit injustice. We are decent people and we do politics in accordance with the Constitution. Nobody has the strength to stop anyone from voting".

"Whoever wants to [vote for the no-confidence motion from the PTI] should resign. They contested [the election] on PTI tickets. If even one person votes [for the motion], he will betray the people."

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