In a major political development-PPP and PML-N leadership meet to overcome differences

PPP and PML-N leaders met at Lunch in Lahore to overcome the differences and to chalk out joint strategy against PTI government

In a major political development, PPP and PML-N leadership met in Lahore at Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif’s Model Town residence on a lunch to discuss joint strategy to oust the PTI government. This meeting is significant in the current context of the Pakistani politics. Both parties already cooperating with each other in the parliament but they developed differences over the strategy to oust the government and on the issue of resignations. 

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif invited the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Zardari for a lunch to discuss the political situation in the country and to look at the means to get rid of PM Imran Khan led PTI government from power.

It seems that the recent defeat of the opposition in the Senate on State Bank amendment bill forced the both parties to overcome the differences and develop close political relationship. Both the major opposition parties finally realised that PTI government is taking advantage of their differences and to launch a successful anti-government movement on the streets and the no-confidence motion in the parliament; both parties need to work together.

The meeting between the heads of two main political parties will relay a clear message to both the establishment and Imran Khan. It is pertinent to mention here that the strategy proposed by the PPP for the PDM proved correct so far. PPP so far played its cards smartly.  

Insiders said there were reports that Shahbaz Sharif had secret meetings with the establishment, while Asif Zardari was also in touch with them. They said if everything has gone as per the ‘plan’ and the establishment decided to step back and lifted its support of Imran Khan, then the field will be clear for the opposition to play its card of no-confidence.

But, in case the establishment is still supporting Imran Khan, then the Saturday’s visit of Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto at the residence of Mian Shahbaz Sharif will give them a clear message that the opposition has united again. It seems that PMLN’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have decided to give free hand to Shahbaz Sharif to deal with establishment.

 It also seems that the decision has already made by the PML-N leadership to provide much needed space for Shahbaz Sharif to negotiate the next general elections and political matters leading up to the elections. There is no doubt that Shahbaz Sharif is capable of striking deal with the establishment to gain some political space for PML-N and other opposition parties.    

On the other hand, the PPP is also being pushed against the wall in Sindh by the PTI government, especially in the wake of upcoming local government elections. Insiders said the PPP was also dreaming of retaining the Sindh government as well as a good number of parliamentarians in the National Assembly, which can only be possible if both the PMLN and the PPP join hands now against the present government.

Both parties also realised that solo flight has failed to brought the desired results. The divisions among opposition parties and solo flight provided much needed relief to PTI government. When PDM was united and was organising mass rallies and public meetings. PTI government was feeling the pressure exerted by the PDM.

The bitter reality is that either PDM without PPP and ANP is not in the position to oust the PTI government and neither PPP and ANP generate enough pressure on the Imran Khan government through the street protests or through the parliament. So one like it or not, both parties need cooperation and working relationship to launch a successful campaign against the government.  

All the differences might not be overcome in a single meeting but it will help to develop trust between the two parties. This meeting has melted some ice between the PPP and PML-N.  

The differences were developed between the two parties over the question of resignations from the parliament. The PPP oppose the mass resignations and insisted to use the option of no confidence in the Punjab and national assemblies.

The PPP and ANP decided to leave the opposition parties alliance PDM over the question of strategy. The split in the PDM weaken the opposition and divided opposition suffered one defeat after the other in the parliament. 

This meeting is a serious effort to overcome the differences and to develop working relation both within the parliament and outside. The PPP has already announced to launch long march against the government from February 27 while PDM has announced the march towards Islamabad on March 23.   

The meeting was also attended by Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Shehbaz, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb, PML-N leader Saad Rafique, PPP Punjab General Secretary Hassan Murtaza and the PPP's Rukhsana Bangash.

Talking to media after the meeting, the leadership of both parties said that they agree to consider all legal, constitutional and parliamentary options to oust the PTI government. Shehbaz said the two parties had come to an agreement that "we will need to use all constitutional, legal and political options" to oust the incumbent government and fix the woes afflicting the country.

Shahbaz said that the consultative meetings will be held, first, within PML-N's Central Executive Committee and then with PDM. Following the meetings, a joint anti-government strategy will be chalked out, he said. "If we don't join hands and come on the same page, then the nation will not forgive us. We spoke in depth about the option of a no-confidence motion [against PM Imran Khan]."Shahbaz said the meeting's participants also tried to form consensus over the anti-government long march and two to three recommendations were also made.

Meanwhile, Bilawal said the only valid parliamentary, legal and democratic mechanisms to oust the government were a no-confidence motion and protests. "We have to cast out Imran if we want to save Pakistan."

Elaborating on the details of their meeting, Shehbaz said it was discussed how and what kind of coordination could be achieved between the PPP and Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) announced long marches. He added the matter would be taken to PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and the PDM and "hopefully a positive outcome will come."

On the no-confidence motion, he said the PPP was always clear about it but the PML-N had a difference of opinion about it. However, he said that now there was consensus "to a large extent" in the PML-N and the party's central executive committee would decide it in a meeting in a few days after which the matter would be taken to the PDM's platform. "We will make an announcement in a few days after consultation with all PDM parties," he said.

Shehbaz was also asked about the PDM's formation and subsequent split to which he said that "broken hearts can reunite.” PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz added that differences and clashes persisted between political parties but "what unites us are the expectations and difficulties of the people."

Bilawal thanked Shehbaz for hosting the luncheon and heaped praise on the PML-N president for performing his responsibilities as the opposition leader in the National Assembly.

The two leaders also railed against the government for the current economic issues plaguing the country and took note of the recent rise in terrorism. Shehbaz criticised the government for its performance in tackling terrorism and said the National Action Plan had been "placed in a cold storage".

The leaders also criticised the government for its handling of the Kashmir issue, with Bilawal saying the government had failed to achieve a consensus on it and Afghanistan.

                                                                       Khalid Bhatti 

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