- PM says that there is an overwhelming opinion within ruling coalition that the doors of the dialogue with PTI should not be closed
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday affirmed the ruling coalition’s position on holding dialogue with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) through the Parliament instead of “arbitration” by the Supreme Court with regard to holding polls on the same day across the country later in October or November.
The prime minister was addressing a meeting of the ruling coalition partners at the PM House ahead of the apex court deadline which expires today (Thursday) about explaining its position with regard to holding of talks with the PTI on countywide polls on the same day.
In a televised address to the meeting, Shehbaz Sharif said that the coalition partners discussed the prevailing challenges to the country and the steps taken by the National Assembly and the joint sitting of the Parliament in line with the Supreme Court’s previous directions for addressing the challenges.
However, he added that the situation is still “very challenging”, citing that the apex court’s three-member bench which was not accepted by the Parliament, still wants to proceed with the matters.
“It was a consensus decision that we accept the verdict given by 4-3 and not by the 3-2 or 5-2. And we still believe that the decision was by the 4-3, but the Supreme Court wants to proceed with the matters with its three-member bench. So, we once again got together today to reiterate our previous position,” he added.
On the dialogue with the PTI, he said that there is an overwhelming opinion within the ruling coalition that the doors of the dialogue should not be closed and there is an opinion that the coalition can convey its stance to the opposition through the Speaker National Assembly.
“Then a parliamentary committee can take up the matter so that the nation gets to know that the allied government has made all-out efforts to ensure everyone unites on holding elections across the country on one-day,” he said, adding that, unlike PTI, the coalition never make anything a matter of “ego”.
He added that the parliamentary committee can discuss the terms of talks. “We can decide what the format of the talks will be. The parliamentary committee can create a room for this,” he added.
“I don’t think we should make the Supreme Court a guarantor and give the apex court the right of ‘arbitration’ which is not its job. Its (SC) job is not (to act like a) ‘Panchayat’, but to give decisions in light of the Constitution and the law. So, it will be the Parliament to decide when the polls should be held and whether these are held on the same day or separately. The Parliament will have to take any such decision,” the prime minister emphasized.
On the elections, he continued that there is a consensus within the coalition partners that the polls should be held on a same day across the country. He added that the term of the current parliament ends on 13th August and then the elections will be held in October or November after the completion of the 90-day term of the caretaker set-up.
To the SC’s direction which has sought a response from the government by Thursday (today) about releasing funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections, the prime minister said that likewise, the parliament responded to the apex court’s previous directions, this matter will also be taken to the parliament which will take its decision, accordingly.
“We also have an ethical and political responsibility that we should respect the decisions taken by the parliament in this regard,” he said, adding that the parliament will take decisions on all the matter.
The prime minister lambasted the PTI, saying that instead of giving any proposals to steer the country out of the challenges, it exploited the situation and asked its provincial finance ministers to refuse accepting the IMF conditions to prevent reaching the deal with the Fund. He further stated that PTI chairman Imran Khan allegedly created further hurdles when he alleged that the US had hatched a conspiracy against his government.
“And then he shamelessly took a U-turn that the US didn’t hatch the conspiracy, but it was within Pakistan… Everybody knows that how Pakistan’s foreign relations were harmed,” he maintained. He added that there has been progress in improving the ties with the US and others after efforts. “However, I am not in a position to say that all the matters are satisfactory,” he added.
He further criticised the PTI for creating a division within the society and promoting hatred, adding that even the leadership of the armed forces were not spared. “And I must say clearly that some agents of the PTI while sitting abroad, played such a heinous role that Pakistan’s enemy wouldn’t be able to do that,” he said, adding that a malicious campaign on the social media was launched against the country’s institutions.
The meeting was attended by party heads in the ruling coalition, including PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Khalid Magsi of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Aftab Sherpao of Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP), Shahzain Bugti of Jamhoor Wattan Party (JWP), Chaudhry Salik Hussain of PML-Q, and other leaders of the ruling coalition partners, federal ministers including Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb. Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan also attended the meeting and briefed the participants on the legal points.
“In the meeting, the overall situation of the country was reviewed and especially the issues arising from the controversial and one-sided bench decisions of the Supreme Court were discussed while referring to holding elections in the country on the same day after the completion of the constitutional term of the current government,” said a statement issued after the meeting.
It added that future strategy was discussed in the context of taking the already ongoing consultation process to the next stage, in light of the recommendations of the committee constituted in this regard and for other political contacts.
“The meeting unanimously decided that holding elections across the country on the same day after the completion of the current government’s constitutional term is the main point, whatever strategy is decided, it will be based on these principles,” it read.
The meeting expressed full confidence in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and reiterated its commitment to continue its support and authorised him to exercise his power for taking decisions and declared that whatever decision the prime minister takes; all parties of the alliance will fully support it.
The meeting made it clear that the ruling parties have already started the process of political consultation within themselves about holding transparent, free, and impartial elections on the same day in the country and “it indicates that the Supreme Court’s role as a “Panchayat” in this purely political matter is inappropriate.”
It added that the process of holding dialogue, and creating understanding and consensus for elections is the whole scope of political parties “which they have been performing well and successfully for years” and decided to proceed in the same manner.
Discussing the Supreme Court’s April 19 decision, the meeting regretted that the apex court by “ignoring the constitutional procedure”, issued an order that the federal government should release money without the approval of the National Assembly, which is contrary to the scheme given in the Constitution.
“The meeting also regretted the Supreme Court’s observation that the prime minister has lost the majority and confidence of the House. These observations are tantamount to insulting the Parliament and the prime minister, and are condemnable. The Supreme Court should respect the opinion of the Parliament and the House. The Parliament stands with the prime minister and has full confidence in him,” it added.
The meeting also discussed the leaked audios of the former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim and his wife and strongly condemned the points of conversations. “The conversation has revealed the ‘conspiracy’ and the meeting declared that these audios have further strengthened the impression that the decisions are not being made according to the constitution but on the basis of personal animosity, likes and dislikes.”
“The meeting also strongly condemned the undemocratic idea of imposing martial law in the country in the leaked audio,” it added. “There is no doubt that former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is guilty of conspiracy against an elected prime minister and an elected democratic coalition government. Removing an elected prime minister from office through a ‘bogus, unconstitutional and illegal’ process of contempt of court is a grave and unpardonable crime,” it added.
The meeting declared that after these audios came out, the real factors behind the “controversial” decisions of the three and eight-member bench have come out more clearly and in this regard, the resolutions of the Parliament should be implemented, it added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023