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ISLAMABAD: The two major opposition political parties – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – agreed on Monday to launch concerted efforts for an in-house change in the National Assembly.

The sources privy to the development told Business Recorder that Sharif, who is also the PML-N president, discussed the issue with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during a meeting in the Parliament House after a meeting of the joint of opposition to chalk out a strategy against the passage of mini-budget and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) autonomy bill besides launching a “decisive” movement against the government.

They said that Sharif said that his party never supported unconstitutional ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan but is ready to go for an in-house change through a no-confidence motion against him.

To this, according to sources, Bilawal said that the no-confidence motion against the prime minister is not enough as there should be no-confidence motions against the NA speaker as well as his deputy.

They said that the PPP has fixed its hawkish eyes on the top slot of the leader of the house [the prime minister], if the no-confidence move succeeds, but the problem lies with the JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is adamant not to extend his party’s support unless, he is guaranteed his share of the cake.

The sources said that Shehbaz Sharif is set to meet the JUI-F chief in a day or two to sort things out, as the opposition is desperately waiting to send the PTI-led Imran Khan government packing.

The sources within the JUI-F said that Maulana, who is heading the nine-party alliance of the opposition parties – the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – wants to discuss the proposal with the component parties of the alliance before giving his consent.

Background discussions with the leaders of various political parties revealed that as both the PPP and the PDM have announced separate long marches on February 27 and March 23, respectively, there is a need to decide whether they should go with the no-confidence move prior to their scheduled anti-government marches or not.

The sources said that the role the estranged PTI leader Jehangir Khan Tareen is thought to be quite crucial to turn things around as no movement against the prime minister is expected to be successful unless, the former plays his “decisive” role.

Earlier, the PML-N, the PPP and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) – rolled up their sleeves to resist the passage of the mini-budget as debate on the bill is set to start today (Tuesday).

The opposition leader in the NA held separate meetings with the PPP chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and the JUI-F parliamentary leader in the NA, Maulana Asadur Rehman, to chalk out a strategy with regard to mini-budget.

The sources said that the trio agreed that the joint opposition would oppose the passage of the mini-budget as well as the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) autonomy bill, tooth and nail.

They said that the passage of the two bills from the assembly to give effect to the Rs375 billion mini-budget and grant autonomy to the central bank, is nothing but “mortgaging the country” on the dictation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They reiterated that the finance bill is akin to “surrendering” to the IMF, as the joint opposition would never allow the government to compromise on the security of the country as both the mini-budget and granting autonomy to the SBP were not acceptable.

While chairing a meeting of the party’s parliamentary party, Shehbaz Sharif said that “we will not allow passage of the mini-budget and are working on a strategy in this connection”.

He said the parliamentary leaders of the opposition parties have agreed to adopt a joint strategy to strongly oppose the passage of ‘The Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021” in the National Assembly.

On December 30, 2021, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin introduced the finance mini-budget in the National Assembly amid protests by the opposition parties.

The SBP Amendment Bill, 2021 was also presented in the House, which was referred to the relevant standing committee for vetting.

According to reports, the introduction of both the bills in the NA, marks the first serious step towards meeting the IMF’s conditions for the approval of both pieces of legislation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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