ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of major opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), decided on Friday to convince President Asif Ali Zardari to step down ahead of the next general elections in order to make them credible – but agreed to avoid any “silly confrontation” with the government.
“We will not be pushing too hard because someone else can take advantage of the chaos on the streets,” a leader of a right wing party, thought to be one of the key players in the country’s convoluted power politics, said.
The lunch hosted by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif came amid growing tensions between the civilian and military leadership and as the government faces legal challenges emanating from a warning issued by the Supreme Court last week to implement its verdict in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case.
Heads of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan National Party (BNP), PPP-Sherpao, a breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and other small groups met for three hours to chalk out what they called ‘a roadmap’ for the continuation of democracy in the country.
Leaders including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Munawar Hassan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Mahmoud Khan Achakzai, Hasil Bizenjo, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Allama Sajid Mir, Gohar Ayub Khan and Professor Khursheed Ahmed were all in attendance.
Hosted by Nawaz, the meeting cautioned the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to avoid direct confrontation with the army, saying it could spoil the whole spectrum of politics.
It was JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman who proposed that all opposition parties should try to convince President Zardari to step down, officials said. “It can happen … we can make him [Zardari] realise that it is better for him, his party, democracy and the country. It will be victory for all,” a participant said, while quoting Fazl.
However, most leaders were of the opinion that the opposition should adopt a cautious approach to push for Zardari’s resignation and early elections, rejecting the three points proposed by Nawaz, officials said.
The PML-N spelt out a three options on Thursday, envisaging a no-trust motion, long march or resignation from the parliament to seek the ouster of the government.
Talking to the media after the meeting, a PML-N spokesperson said that participants of the meeting had gathered on a few points, and would take a final decision in this regard very soon.
The points are that the government should call elections immediately; electoral lists must be completed as soon as possible; all decisions of the Supreme Court must be implemented; and the administration should avoid confronting state institutions.
Leaders of all these parties will discuss this plan with their party members and get back to Nawaz in a couple of days, the PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.