ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s opposition parties are holding a multiparty conference in the federal capital on Sunday to discuss the “dismal performance” of the government and formulate their future political strategy to drive the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party out of power through constitutional means.
Former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and former president, Asif Ali Zardari, also participated in the conference through a video link from London and Karachi, respectively.
Top leadership of other opposition parties including Sharif’s daughter and political heir-apparent, Maryam Nawaz, also present at the gathering.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is hosting the meeting and it will focus on different proposals of opposition factions regarding the ouster of the government and the possibility of fresh elections.
“All opposition parties are meeting on a two-point agenda that includes the review of the government’s dismal two-year performance and the way forward for the opposition,” Sehar Kamran, senior PPP leader, told Arab News on Saturday.
She said the opposition would consider all “constitutional and democratic” options to get rid of the “selected government” as it had failed to deliver on its promises to bring a positive change in the lives of the people.
Kamran also confirmed virtual participation of Sharif and Zardari in the conference.
“The importance of this conference can be gauged by the fact that all political bigwigs of the opposition are attending it,” she said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s PTI party came into power in July 2008 by defeating all major opposition factions in the general elections. It promised to root out corruption, create job opportunities for the youth and fix the country’s fragile economy.
“This government has not fulfilled even a single election promise,” Raja Zafarul Haq, chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, told Arab News while confirming Sharif’s virtual participation in the conference.
He said that his party was finalizing proposals to present in the conference.
“Our proposals will be ready by Saturday evening. Let’s see how other opposition parties receive them,” he said.
The government on the other hand said it would use “legal options” if the electronic media aired Sharif’s address to the conference.
“How is it possible that a fugitive [Nawaz Sharif] carries out political activities and gives speeches?” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said in a twitter post.
Sharif is currently in London for medical treatment, though the Islamabad High Court recently issued his non-bailable arrest warrants and directed the government to ensure his presence in the court during the next hearing of a corruption reference against him on September 22.
Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, a senior lawmaker of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, said his political faction had finalized proposals for the conference that include en masse resignations from the National Assembly to oust the government.
“We also have other options and can resort to massive protest demonstrations in major cities of the country to put pressure on the government,” he told Arab News.
However, analysts remain skeptical about the opposition’s ability to mount a serious challenge to the government at this stage.
“They are trying to test waters by holding this conference before launching a conclusive movement against the government,” Adnan Rehmat, a political analyst, told Arab News.
He said that the opposition wanted to flex its muscle before the Senate elections in March next year when it is likely to lose seats to the PTI due to the ruling party's majority in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
“It will be premature to infer any results from the opposition’s multiparty conference,” Rehmat added.