PML-N president calls for mid-term polls, claims only way to fix economy

ISLAMABAD: Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, ratcheted up pressure on the PTI-led central government calling for mid-term elections to “fix the ailing economy”.

In the same vein, Shehbaz also announced that his party – the PML-N – would pull out a key parliamentary panel formed to investigate whether or not the 2018 elections had been rigged.

Speaking to a group of journalists at his chambers in the Parliament House, he called Prime Minister Imran Khan a ‘liar’ and his government the “worst government” in the history of Pakistan.

Several opposition parties have had an all parties’ conference (APC) in Islamabad earlier this week where they decided to launch a protest movement against the government. “The APC will save democracy,” he said. “All parties joining hands would strengthen democracy in Pakistan.”

The APC decided to form a Rahbar Committee to follow up on crucial decisions it had taken. And Shehbaz said his party has nominated Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ahsan Iqbal as its representatives on the committee.

Shehbaz conceded mistakes of his party, though not directly, saying that “everyone committed mistakes in the past”. The opposition had decided to expose the blue-eyed prime minister, he said while referring to Imran Khan, he added.

“Now, everyone can see that the economy has been destroyed,” he added. “The only panacea of all ills afflicting the economy is mid-term election, not even an in-house change.”

Shehbaz said the opposition has already put up the name of Rana Tanvir for the chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee, saying that he has stepped down as head of the parliamentary graft watchdog.

He said his party has decided to pull out of the parliamentary committee on rigging. He added that his party would extend full support to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of his eponymous faction of JUI who is spearheading the opposition’s campaign against the PTI government.

The opposition has been taunting Imran Khan by calling him a ‘selected prime minister’. This led the National Assembly speaker, Asad Qaiser, earlier this week to ban the use of the term ‘selected’ in parliament.

Shehbaz questioned the rationale for the ban. “The word ‘selected’ is neither inappropriate nor abusive. If not selected, then what should we call him?” he said while refusing to recognise him as an ‘elected prime minister’.

The National Assembly speaker has expunged the word ‘selected’ from proceedings while directing the media against the use of this sarcastic word. “’Selected’ has become a taunt for Imran Khan which he would carry with him till the day of judgment,” Shehbaz said.

Referring to the recent incidents of manhandling of media persons, the PML-N president said the government was using fascist tactics to censor the media.

“We have asked Javed Latif to present a report on the security of journalists in parliament,” he said while condemning the assault on Karachi Press Club President Imtiaz Faran by a PTI politician during a television talk show.

Shehbaz heaped praise on the opposition lawmakers for ‘meaningful debate’ on the federal budget 2019-20. “Never before in the country’s history such a cruel, anti-people and oppressive budget has been presented,” he claimed.

However, he added that his party would not leave people at the mercy of the PTI government. “Imran Khan’s team has failed to deliver,” he added.

Shehbaz also lamented the “oppression and injustice” being meted out to his brother and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who has been serving a court-awarded jail sentence. He said the family was not allowed to meet him in prison.

“Such injustices had not even happened during fascist regimes. Prisoners were allowed to meet their families during the rule of military dictator Pervez Musharraf. We will fight legal and political battle for our right,” he added.