ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s major opposition parties are set to sit together to devise an anti-government strategy at an All Parties Conference hosted by the PPP at a five-star hotel here in the federal capital today.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has arrived at the venue, with other leaders expected to reach soon.
PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and will also address the APC, attended by nearly a dozen political parties, via video link and the broadcast is scheduled to be streamed live on social media.
“The PPP will provide a link on social media where the two leaders will deliver opening remarks,” the PPP had said in a statement earlier.
This will be the first political activity of PML-N supremo since he left the country in November for treatment in London.
The announcement of a live broadcast comes even as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on political communication Shahbaz Gill warned of legal action if Nawaz’s address is aired.
Gill said that it was not possible for an “absconding criminal” to take part in political activities and gives speeches. “The Sharif family can tell nothing but lies. They are such [habitual] liers that they even lied about a disease.”
Nawaz Sharif agreed to virually attend the conference on the invitation of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto who had called him to inquire after his health.
“Just spoke to Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif. Enquired about his health. Also invited him to virtually attend opposition APC, hosted by PPP, on 20th September,” the PPP chairman had tweeted.
Gathering of ‘accused and losers’
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Saturday questioned the real status of Nawaz Sharif’s health after it was announced he will deliver opening remarks at the APC tomorrow.
Faraz said that Nawaz should not consider the people “fools”.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, along with Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, he said: “I have heard that Nawaz Sharif will deliver an address via video link […] When he has to appear before the court he claims he is ill and now all of a sudden he is fit for politics.”
Akbar said that according to a PEMRA regulation, “an absconder cannot address a press conference”.
Faraz said that the opposition’s APC would be a gathering of “accused and losers” that aims to spread chaos in the country.
He said the opposition wanted to rule the country to protect its “illegal wealth and properties”.
JI to stay away
While all the major opposition parties, indluding JUI-F and Akhtar Mengal’s BNP-M, have agreed to join hands against the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, former PTI ally Jamat-e-Islami has decided to stay away from the APC describing its agenda as vague and objectives as dubious.
“The JI could not sit with those parties which are equally responsible with the PTI for economic and social destruction of the country, and dubiously supported the legislative agenda of PTI to push the country in the slavery of colonial powers,” said JI ameer Senator Sirajul Haq while addressing Mujahid-e-Millat seminar in memory of late Maulana Abdus Satar Niazi on Saturday.
‘Plan to oust government’
Meanwhile, PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira, in a press conference announced that the venue for the conference, which the party is hosting, had been changed to Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
He said that the conference will chalk out the final plan to oust the “hollow” government.
“It is clear the government knows full well how hollow it is from within,” the PML-N leader said. “The crutches it is on will not save the government. The real support comes from the people.”
Besides the PPP and PML-N, Asfandyar Wali’s Awami National Party (ANP), Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) are expected to attend, besides others. Jamat-e-Islami (JI) will not attend.
‘Fazl to attend APC’
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave a formal invitation to JUI-F chief Fazl-ur-Rahman during a meeting at the latter’s residence, sources informed Geo News.
During the meeting, Senator Abdul Kareem, Shah Owais Noorani, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Akram Durrani and Maulana Ataur Rehman were present.
The meeting discussed tomorrow’s APC among other matters.
Following the meeting, Bilawal said that a very “wholesome” and “detailed” discussion took place between both parties. He said that Fazl had accepted his invitation to attend the conference.
“We will hold a joint press conference following the APC and our next course of action will be announced then,” he told reporters.
Akhtar Mengal to send party delegation
Separately, Bilawal spoke to Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal to inquire of his health and to thank him for his support.
Bilawal expressed his gratitude for Mengal’s decision to send a delegation of the party for participation in the APC.
New election or in-house change?
The opposition parties had decided to convene an APC on September 20 after a Rahbar Committee meeting comprising leaders from all opposition parties decided that it was time to show the incumbent government the door.
“The situation in the country has reached a stage where we cannot afford even a moment’s delay,” JUI-F’s Durrani had said.
“We want free and fair elections in the country, with no interference whatsoever,” he had further said, terming the 2018 general elections “a disgrace to the whole country”.
Durrani had said that opposition parties were on the same page that giving the incumbent government one more day in power would be unjust. “This government has destroyed the country in its two years” of rule, he added.
The upcoming APC, he had said, would decide on the future plan of action as the opposition leaders had already made up their minds on numerous issues that the country was facing.
“The APC will decide whether there will be a new election or an in-house change,” he had said.