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‘Deadline is Rejected’

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Foreign minister claims opposition’s demands for dissolution of assembles by Jan. 31 are ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unconstitutional’

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday “rejected” the opposition’s demands for Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and dissolve all assemblies by Jan. 31, stressing that the government will not give in to “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional” demands.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said that the country’s affairs cannot be run at the whims of the parties comprising the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). “We do not wish to leave you hanging over this so-called deadline you have given us. That deadline stands rejected,” he said, adding that such demands were “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional.”

Urging the opposition to put aside their “personal agendas” and resolve all matters through dialogue, he stressed that the prime minister would not step down. “Assemblies will not be dissolved,” he added.

The foreign minister claimed that the PDM was “divided” over the issue of resignations from Parliament, singling out the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for lacking a clear strategy. “PPP’s decisive forces were neither present in the rally, nor in the meetings,” he said, claiming that the party’s final authority was former president Asif Ali Zardari and not chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Contrary to the minister’s claims, Zardari has been present, via video-link, in the anti-government alliance’s consultative meetings.

Qureshi also hit out at the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), claiming there were clear rifts within the party. “One side backs Shahbaz Sharif’s thinking, and the other the thinking of Maryam Nawaz,” he said, referring to the former Punjab chief minister’s desire for “dialogue” and “appeasement” for the security establishment.

“If you [opposition] are serious about resignations, then resignations should reach the [National Assembly] speaker on the 31st [of December],” he said, terming the ongoing practice of lawmakers submitting their resignations to their respective party heads a “total sham.”

The foreign minister also questioned the PDM’s sincerity to their announced long march, claiming the lack of a set launch point indicated division in the alliance’s ranks.

Lahore crowds

Referring to the PDM’s rally at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan on Dec. 13, Qureshi claimed it had been a “failure,” and accused the opposition of blaming the media for their inability to engage the Punjab capital’s residents. “Had the city of Lahore actually mobilized, the PDM would not have faced such disappointment,” he said.

Referring to a speech by PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in which the opposition leader said the time for talks was now over, the foreign minister said there could be no dialogue based on conditions. The government has repeatedly stated that it is willing to talk with the opposition—so long as it meets the condition of not bringing up NAB laws or court cases.

He also claimed that the PDM alliance would prove “shortlived,” adding that the day was not far when Maryam Nawaz and Bhutto-Zardari would not be able to tolerate each other.

Pak-Saudi ties

To a question, the foreign minister said Islamabad has a longstanding relationship with Riyadh. “Saudi Arabia has always stood by Pakistan in difficult times for which we are grateful,” he said, adding that the Gulf kingdom’s foreign minister had openly supported Pakistan on the Kashmir issue at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation’s platform.

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