-Shehbaz visits Karachi, meets PPP leaders-Both party leaders plan APC against govt
-Desire firm efforts to resolve Karachi’s issues
-Ahsan says struggle for supremacy of Constitution, free media will continue
From Zeeshan Mirza
KARACHI: Leaders of PPP and PML-N on Wednesday reiterated their commitment to using all “democratic and constitutional ways” available to send the government packing.
PPP leaders Naveed Qamar and Farhatullah Babar and PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb were addressing a joint press conference after a meeting between delegations of both parties following Shehbaz Sharif’s arrival in Karachi. Sharif, along with his party leaders, had met PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari during his visit to Karachi that aimed to “express solidarity” with the residents following the flooding caused by torrential rains in the city.
The chairperson of the ruling party of Sindh, who has yet to visit the affected areas, welcomed the leader of the opposition at his home in the port city.
During the press conference, both parties berated the federal government and lamented that “the fundamental rights of Pakistanis were being usurped”. PML-N’s Iqbal said that both parties have agreed to “struggle for the supremacy of the Constitution, independent courts and free media”.
“If we are to run this country and make it successful, it is only possible if we blindly follow the 1973 Constitution that is in line with the vision of Quaid-i-Azam,” he said.
Addressing the differences between the opposition and government over proposed laws pertaining to money laundering, terror financing etc, Iqbal said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had thanked Sharif in a letter after similar bills were passed by both houses earlier.
But the opposition had blocked the passage of newly introduced bills because the government wanted to pass a “black law” under the garb of complying with the Financial Action Task Force requirements. PPP’s Babar seconded Iqbal’s statement and alleged that through the new law, the government wanted to “legalise” people being picked up without charges.
Both PPP and PML-N will attend the Rehbar Committee meeting tomorrow, where the date for the multi-party conference will also be decided, it was announced.
The opposition leaders said that the government’s accountability process was one-sided and that no one affiliated with the ruling party was being held accountable or questioned. Iqbal also refrained from criticising the PPP in response to a question regarding Karachi’s poor infrastructure, saying that Karachi had witnessed record rainfall last week which had led to urban flooding. The city was facing a “calamity”, he said and added that his party did not want to “play the blame game”. The former planning minister said that the federal government should step up and offer a package for the people of Sindh who were affected by the devastating rain and also help in repairing the infrastructure.
Last week, a three-day spell of record-breaking monsoon rains played havoc with Karachi’s infrastructure, flooding all key roads, submerging underpasses and streets and paralysing all segments of life. The crisis-like situation forced the Sindh government to invite the intervention of Prime Minister Imran Khan who ordered immediate rescue operations for thousands of affected people. Many areas in the metropolis are still inundated with water and are without power. Residents of affected areas no more have access to clean drinking water and are awaiting the government to drain the water.
Meanwhile, the date for the All Parties Conference (APC) will be decided tomorrow when the PML-N and PPP convene a session of Rehbar Committee. Following talks between the two party leaders on Wednesday, the meeting was announced in a joint press conference.
PML-N has come to Karachi to express solidarity with the people and to expedite rebuilding efforts, said Ahsan Iqbal. “In today’s meeting, the opposition parties discussed routine political matters and decided to participate in a Rehbar Committee’s meeting tomorrow,” he added.
Mr Iqbal said that the opposition would strengthen the collaboration between parties as a response to the incumbent government’s political, economic, and governance failures.
“[The opposition] will bring forward all constitutional and legal options to send this government back home and save the country from disaster,” Mr Iqbal commented. Mr Iqbal felt the PTI-led government’s “incompetence” was the reason for disasters such as the nation’s economy plunging, the spread of hatred, and the failure of the foreign policy regarding Kashmir. “After the Rehbar Committee’s meeting, an All Parties Conference will be called,” the PML-N leader said, adding that the committee will plan the opposition’s course of action.
According to the Charter of Democracy – signed by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto – both parties would strive for the rule of law, an independent judicial system, freedom of press, sovereignty of the Parliament, and defend democracy, said Mr Iqbal. “It was decided that none of the political differences between the parties would come in the way of their goals,” he added, saying that Pakistan was built on these ideals. Mr Iqbal said the PML-N and PPP believe that the future of Pakistan is contingent on the rule of law and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision. He further said that the freedom of people has been taken away. In response to a question after the briefing ended, he said that PML-N stands with the opposition parties against the enforcement of a presidential system.
“When the fall of Dhaka took place, even then the presidential form of government existed in Pakistan,” Mr Iqbal said, adding that the presidential system was intact when the smaller provinces in the country felt discrimination.
“During Ayub Khan’s 10 years, the presidential system was adopted; the same goes Zia-ul-Haq, Yahya Khan, and Musharraf’s eras,” he said, “It divided the country, made it weak, and caused a sense of deprivation among the smaller provinces.” Mr Iqbal asserted that the 1973 Constitution was the only way to strengthen the country and that there is no need to experiment with the governance system after 72 years.
Regarding the rains in Karachi, he said that it was no less than a calamity.
“At the time of such a calamity, instead of engaging in blame games we must solve to help Karachi get back on its feet,” Iqbal reasoned.
“The federal government must take lead and sit down with Sindh damage must be compensated and better infrastructure for the future must be ensured,” he added.
Speaking on legislation to meet the Financial Action Task Force’s requirements, he said that the opposition had fulfilled its national duty in allowing the bills to be ratified. “The biggest evidence of this is that the foreign minister penned a letter to the leader of the opposition and appreciated the opposition’s role in the process,” he said. The only legislative point of contention for the opposition was one in which to the government sought to “bring in a black law like NAB’s where anyone can be incarcerated without bail for 90 days and without any justice provided”, said the PML-N leader.
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif came to Karachi today and visited different areas of Karachi, including Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Malir. He met with many families of the flood victims and offered his condolences for the rain-related misfortunes.
“Witnessed extreme anger and anguish among the people during my visit to Malir and Gulistan-e-Johar. High time all stakeholders took this outrage as a WARNING and got down to fix the rot. No shiny PowerPoint prez, social media trends/blame game can be alternative to service delivery,” he tweeted.
The PML-N leader had arrived with party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal in Karachi on Wednesday morning to express his solidarity with the people of the city.
“PM should not do politics and should work with the Sindh government,” he had said while speaking to the media earlier. He also added that the federal government should consult with the provincial government over the relief operations in the port city while advising the prime minister not to politicise the problems being faced by the people of Karachi.
“Politics should not be done when Karachi is underwater,” the former Punjab chief minister had said.
Mr Sharif also asked about the funds that were promised to the metropolis
“After the destruction in Karachi due to [recent spell of] rains, everyone must work unitedly,” he had said before departing from Lahore.
Mr Sharif added that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was undergoing medical treatment and would return to the country as soon as his doctors allowed it.