Opposition not enthused about Sharif’s talks offer

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ISLAMABAD: Attaching little importance to the repeated offer for dialogue put forward by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif for a better relationship among state institutions, opposition parties seem to be more amenable to a similar offer made by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

The leaders of the three main opposition parties in parliament — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — were unanimous about the need for such a dialogue.

However, each party insisted that it would be better able to convey its viewpoint once the mechanism and the level of the proposed dialogue was finalised.

PPP, PTI, MQM seem more amenable to Senate chairman-proposed dialogue among institutions

Since the announcement of the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case last month, PML-N leaders have been saying that the time has come for a “final dialogue” among stakeholders.

Talking to reporters during his stay at Islamabad’s Punjab House, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had on a number of occasions expressed his willingness to engage the country’s political leadership for a dialogue to end the imbalance in civil-military relations, because of which not a single elected prime minister had ever completed his tenure since independence.

In one of his interactions with mediapersons, Mr Sharif had stated that there seemed to be a “virus” in the country’s system that did not allow elected prime ministers to complete their terms. He had stated that everyone needed to trace the fault, so that the country could be brought on the right track. He had also expressed his party’s continued commitment to the Charter of Democracy (CoD), and even said that agreement could be improved after consultation with all political parties.

On the other hand, senators from nearly all parties had, last week, agreed to a proposal from Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani to initiate institutional dialogue between parliament, the military establishment and the judiciary so as to avert a clash of institutions. Mr Rabbani had floated the idea following extensive discussion on the current political situation after the Panama Papers verdict.

Stressing that all institutions should work within their domains under the ambit of the law, Mr Rabbani had said the invitation to the military would be extended through the prime minister, since the military came under the executive under the law of the land. For the judiciary, the invitation would be sent to the chief justice of Pakistan.

He had announced that the committee of the whole house would be convened soon to finalise a way forward. Talking to Dawn, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that his party was not giving any serious consideration to whatever Nawaz Sharif had been saying since his ouster, because he had lost all credibility.

“What credibility does Nawaz Sharif have now? He has been disowned even by the Supreme Court,” Mr Qureshi said.

However, he said that Mr Rabbani was known as a credible person by all parties, adding that the Senate chairman should take the leaders of all political parties into confidence about his proposed plan.

So far, he said, they were not aware of the mechanism for the dialogue and who would represent the judiciary and the military.

As far as Mr Sharif’s offer was concerned, he said, if the ex-prime minister was serious, then he should get off the streets and ask his nominated Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to initiate the dialogue in the National Assembly first.

Similarly, PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said the party leadership had already declared they were not ready to accept any dialogue offer from the PML-N at this point in time.

Mr Babar, who is also a senator, said that it seemed that the Senate chairman wanted to use the Committee of the Whole House for this purpose, as had been done for issues such as the Fata reforms, steps to provide speedy justice and the revival of student unions in educational institutions.

Mr Babar recalled that the committee had once even invited the chief justice of Pakistan. However, he said, the PPP would welcome any initiative aiming at strengthening the parliament and establishing civilian supremacy.

MQM parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar claimed his party had formally proposed the initiation of such a dialogue to both PPP and the PML-N in the past, but to no avail. He recalled that his party had asked former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to engage the military since he had good relations with then-army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Mr Sattar said the MQM wanted an end to the of civil-military musical chairs, adding that dialogue was the best way forward.

Late night, speaking at a rally in Lahore, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif also welcomed Mr Rabbani’s proposal and said the PML-N would be in forefront in implementation of the suggestion.

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