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ISLAMABAD: Former president and co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif would attend opposition's All Parties Conference (APC) through a video link Sunday (Sept 20), and a joint strategy would be prepared to get rid of the "incompetent government" of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira expressed these views, while addressing a news conference at Zardari House Saturday.

Kaira said that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday telephoned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and inquired after his health and invited him to attend the conference through video link.

He said that Nawaz Sharif accepted the invitation of Bilawal.

He said that Asif Ali Zardari would also participate in the APC through video link.

"The PTI government is sustained though support. If this support is removed, it will be scattered. The support cannot protect the government but the real support of the people of Pakistan. All opposition parties have agreed that no more time would be given to the incompetent government. The opposition would prepare a joint strategy in the APC hosted by the PPP to get rid of the PTI government," he said.

The PPP leader said that we would formulate the final action plan to be implemented against the government today (Sunday), we will decide what course of action to take.

He said that the PPP changed the venue of the conference, now it would be held in Islamabad Marriott Hotel instead of Zardari House.

The PPP leader said that keeping the government's two-year performance as a "charge-sheet," the entire country and all political parties "rightfully view" the government to have "failed in every sector." Answering a question, he said that the economic situation of the country was worst before COVID-19 pandemic. He said that government had not gone back on all their promises, in fact, they had put the country into reverse gear, and have snatched away any existing freedoms, making life difficult for citizens.

Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government was in panic, and the ministers were giving various statements after the announcement of the APC.

"If they were so confident, they wouldn't have been scrambling to push out the same tired, old narrative of blaming the opposition [for the country's problems]."

Speaking about the elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, he said that there are national security concerns being raised over the polls.

"A big concern for national security is free and fair elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is very important that independent, fair and free elections take place there," he said.

"We hope timely and fair and free elections without any interference take place there, so that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan can make their own decisions, which their representatives will see through for them," he said.

Answering a question, the PPP leader said that some opposition members could not participate in joint-sitting of the Parliament due to genuine reasons. He said some members could not participate due to COVID-19 pandemic.

"Two of our members have contracted COVID-19, another member recently passed away, Khursheed Shah has been under NAB custody for more than a year and Asif Ali Zardari did not attend owing to health concerns," he explained.

Kaira said that nonetheless, the opposition did have ample strength and the government's numbers are far less.

Answering another question of whether resignations by government representatives will be considered as an option and if the Sindh government will "sacrifice Sindh" in the process, Kaira said: "People say the PPP will not sacrifice the Sindh government for this purpose, but you must bear in mind we are rightfully saying the government has failed." He said the PPP will then "perform even better and secure more seats".

"So we reject the notion that the PPP is not making concrete decisions over such fears."

"We never sought to topple the government. We told Imran Khan that we will support him, requested him to sign a charter of economy, despite all the name-calling. But the government did not accept any proposal of the opposition. But now that there is a 100 percent failure, there is no other option," he said.

To a question regarding the joint session of parliament where bills crucial to meeting the requirements set out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) were "forcibly passed" - as Bilawal put it - Kaira said that it was true that the opposition should have had greater numbers present in parliament.

He said that when the vote count was challenged, a recount should have been done. "These are the rules. It is not at the speaker's discretion to not do a recount."

"When we were in power, there was an instance or two when a recount was done. Not only did we have an assembly member recount the votes, we offered the objecting party to have their member stand there and oversee the second count," Kaira said.

"But here the entire process was bulldozed. Neither was Bilawal allowed to speak nor was the leader of the opposition (Shahbaz) allowed to speak, which is why the opposition boycotted the session."

According to the sources as many as 11 opposition parties will participate in the APC. They said that the invitation would also be extended to Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Balochistan National Party (Mengal) to take part in the APC. They said that this would undoubtedly be a meaningful APC, which would decide to go for a street movement.

They said that every opposition party wanted to send the PTI government packing, adding that approaches might be different but this was exactly what all parties were attending the APC for -- to agree on a unified approach. The sources said that given the concern of the JUI-F, there would be a written agreement between all opposition parties to stand by their word in the future, if all went according to plan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020