ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: In a renewed attempt to muster support for an anti-government movement, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday approached the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other opposition parties and vowed to launch Tehreek-i-Nijaat (movement of riddance) against the ‘unprecedented’ inflation and ‘lopsided’ accountability allegedly covering corruption of the ruling alliance.
PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif contacted PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to forge a ‘joint opposition campaign’ against Imran Khan’s government over price hike and NAB amended ordinance.
The PPP is no more a part of the joint opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), over the issue of resignations from assemblies by ‘all opposition parties’.
About the Friday discussion, the PPP said the leadership of both parties deliberated upon the pros and cons of adopting a joint strategy by opposition in the parliament. The PML-N, however, seemed enthusiastic about the joint strategy this time, claiming that both Mr Shehbaz and Mr Bhutto-Zardari “agreed to adopt a joint opposition strategy during the joint parliament session with regard to the NAB amended ordinance”.
According to the PML-N, both Mr Shehbaz and Mr Bhutto-Zardari also agreed to give a ‘strong reaction’ against the worst price hike and inflation in and outside parliament. Mr Shehbaz’s son, Mr Hamza, also proposes that time has come that all opposition parties sit together and work out a ‘constitutional solution’ to get rid of this anti-people government, as Mr Shehbaz is optimistic that the PPP may join the PDM at some stage for a joint movement against the PTI government.
Mr Shehbaz also talked to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, Balochistan National Party (BNP) chairman Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) president Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Aimal Wali Khan, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) secretary general Owais Noorani, National Party (NP) president Dr Abdul Malik and others and took them into confidence to launch the Tehreek-i-Nijaat against what he called “incompetent, corrupt and selected” rulers, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said.
Ms Aurangzeb said in the first phase of the movement, all opposition parties had been taken on board, while in the next phase, the ruling coalition partners would be invited to join them. Lawyers, traders, clerks and people of all segments of society would be given a platform to wrap up the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government, she added.
As the departure of the PPP from the opposition’s PDM had virtually faded the drive, it is believed the joint opposition could give a hard time to the government only if the major opposition party rejoined the movement.
Mr Shehbaz also discussed the controversial NAB amendment and electronic voting machines legislation. “During the discussions, all leaders agreed on a joint strategy in and outside the Parliament, against the skyrocketing inflation. They agreed that due to unbearable inflation, people want removal of government,” Ms Aurangzeb claimed.
The opposition leaders were of the opinion that if the incumbent government was allowed to rule further, the country and its people might not survive.
They deliberated on ways to oppose the black law of NAB amendment on every forum, observing “the corrupt government” wanted to cover its own corruption by changing NAB laws.
Mr Shehbaz said overnight increase of over Rs8 per litre in petrol price would jack up the cost of everything and make the people’s life miserable. He said the government was planning to increase POL prices further through petroleum development levy on the orders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Electricity tariffs would also jump as the government negotiations with the IMF failed, he added.
“Yet another petrol bomb exploded on the masses in the dead of night. This is IK’s way of providing “relief” after giving a long sermon yesterday. Unfortunately, everyday dawns with horrible news for the people. This incompetent/corrupt PTI govt & Pakistan can’t go together,” Mr Shehbaz also tweeted. He said the country could not sustain under such ‘clueless and cruel’ government, as cosmetic measurements, lip service, transfers and postings were useless to overcome the crisis.
Referring to yet another drastic rise in petroleum prices, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the PPP had protested in the National Assembly as well as Senate on Friday. In a tweet, he wrote: “16th Oct: Govt raises petrol prices by Rs. 10.5. Single largest increase ever. 1st Nov: PM says no more increase in petrol prices. 5th Nov, 1:30am: Govt increase petrol in the dead of night by Rs8 -- increase of almost 20rs in less than a month. PPP protested in the NA & Senate today (Friday).”
About Mr Shehbaz’s contact with the PPP chairman on Friday, the PPP media cell said they exchanged views on current political situation.
The PPP chairman said that rising prices of daily commodities had turned people’s life miserable during the tenure of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Isanf government. “Both leaders also deliberated upon the pros and cons of adopting a joint strategy by opposition in the parliament,” the statement added.
It said the leadership of both opposition parties criticised the prime minister for offering to the people a ‘lollipop of relief’ that they said had aggravated the problems being faced by the masses. “Each passing is adding to the problems of the people who have been braving a plethora of issues,” they observed.
Also, senior vice president of the PML-N and ex-premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, accompanied by party secretary general Ahsan Iqbal and information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb, told a presser that the only way to address multiple crisis faced by the country were immediate, transparent, fair and free elections. He said: “All national institutions including the parliament, bureaucracy, judiciary and the armed forces are quite worried over the present situation and thus transparent election at the earliest is the only solution.”
Mr Iqbal said PM Khan needed to go because he was “irrelevant to every sector” of the government from economy, governance, foreign affairs to security. “He [PM] jeopardised Pakistan’s each sector,” the PML-N leader alleged.
In a separate statement, PPP vice president Senator Sherry Rehman lashed at the government for drastic increase in petrol prices. “With gas tariff going up by 300 per cent, who can afford to use their stoves? It is now just a matter of time before a humanitarian disaster unfolds in Pakistan this winter,” she observed.
The government was forcing people towards poverty and starvation, she said.
The PPP chairman, she said, had decided to vehemently protest against inflation in the country. “We are out there on the streets, shoulder to shoulder with the vulnerable people of this country, who want relief from this government.
“The thin veil hiding the government’s incompetence and dishonesty came off long ago. Instead of closing the gap between the rich and poor, this government is setting new records of inflation and price hike. PPP will oppose this at every forum,” she added.
In a statement, PPP’s Central Information Secretary Shazia Atta Marri said Mr Khan had always given troubles and miseries to the masses in the name of ‘fake relief’ announcements and it was the time for him to be accountable. “Imran Khan has been taking anti-people decisions while acting upon the given agenda of IMF,” she said.
Ms Marri said people of Pakistan should be prepared for staging anti-government protests across the country.
M.B Kalhoro from Larkana also contributed to this report