PM urged to resume talks

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.—AP/File


ISLAMABAD: The government had just ignored in the National Assembly on Monday the shooting death of a protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) follower in Faisalabad and more protests it provoked, but Leader of Opposition Khursheed Ahmed Shah briefly halted an early prorogation of the house to appeal to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to talk to the protesting party.

“Now Mian Sahib will have to take initiative and come forward,” he said of the prime minister who was not present in the house, and, in a reference also to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, added: “If anything happens to Pakistan, then these two parties will be responsible.”

Also read: PTI calls for countrywide day of mourning after activist killed in Faisalabad

Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, chairing the proceedings at the time, had just begun reading a presidential order proroguing the house after a 13-day session when Mr Shah stopped him to speak about what he called a “very dangerous” development in Faisalabad earlier in the day of PML-N and PTI workers fighting each other during what the PTI had planned as the first of a series of city “shutdowns” as part of its protest campaign against alleged rigging of last year’s general elections.

The opposition leader recalled that he had advised the prime minister during a meeting with him on Dec 1 to start a dialogue with the PTI, which has been holding a protest sit-in outside the parliament house since mid-August, and that, in his presence, Mr Sharif assigned the task to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar besides promising to consult leaders of other parliamentary parties on his return from a visit to London.

Without apportioning blame on any side for that dialogue not happening, Mr Shah said: “The government should open the way to dialogue.”

Pointing out that Pakistan and India had to come to the table to talk after fighting wars, he said it was the government’s responsibility to begin a dialogue, blaming political instability for a lack of government attention to the sufferings of IDPs such as those who evacuated from the North Waziristan tribal area for the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb military operation there from mid-June.

Referring to the shooting death of PTI worker Haq Nawaz in Faisalabad that the party blamed on PML-N — the ruling party denied the allegation — Mr Shah said continuing protests were weakening the state and, “in my view, my country is being ruined”.

Repeatedly asking the government to come forward to find a political solution of the protest campaign, the opposition leader also warned PTI Chairman Imran Khan that such tactics could not bring him power, saying “the only path to this is election”.

He urged Imran Khan to come back to house which his party has boycotted after sending resignations of its 34 lawmakers — five of whom later revolted.

“You can serve people from this house, otherwise neither you will get anything nor anyone else,” he said, suggesting “all our parties will have to think” about that.

There had been speculation that the extension of the session, which began on Nov 26, from Dec 5 onwards had something to do with PTI protests.

But, unexpectedly, a house business advisory committee dominated by PML-N and its allies, decided to take up a government motion to discuss the IDPs’ problems by suspending the question hour and all other business on the day’s agenda just when most members of the poorly attended house seemed more concerned about the start of clashes between PTI and PML-N supporters and the death of a PTI supporter.

Several members who spoke in the debate, including some belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) from where most IDPs had come, demanded giving Fata people a choice to decide whether they wanted to join the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province or have a province of their own, besides formation of a special committee of the house to study the IDPs’ problems.

An expected winding up speech from Minister for States and Frontier Regions Retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch did not come after Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed told the house that the debate would continue in the next session, for which no date was given.

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