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Opposition Wants Written Terms Prior to Any Talks with PTI-led Government

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Joint opposition says it will not enter into any talks with written assurances of issues under discussion

The united opposition on Thursday informed National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser that it will not enter into any talks with the government until it has been provided written assurances of the terms of engagement, as well as a categorical statement that the government has sought the dialogue.

“We are going to communicate to the speaker that he should give us in writing because we do not want to hear that we [opposition] have been pressing for a dialogue,” Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman told journalists after a meeting of the opposition’s steering committee.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) MNA Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said Qaiser had called him and PPP leader Syed Naveed Qamar on Wednesday night and informed them of his desire to see both the government and the opposition come together to discuss the 20-odd bills and ordinances that the PTI wants to pass through a joint session of Parliament. He said that the opposition’s steering committee had decided that it would respond to the speaker’s invitation after he had forwarded it in writing and its terms had been approved by the respective party leadership.

Announced by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the steering committee is aimed at devising a joint strategy inside Parliament over the government’s attempts to pass controversial legislation, including the use of electronic voting machines; introduction of internet-voting for overseas Pakistanis; and amendments to the NAB ordinance.

A day earlier, the government “postponed” a joint session of Parliament mere hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of government lawmakers and urged them to consider voting for EVMs a “jihad.” In a statement, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain claimed it had been delayed to evolve consensus on electoral reforms with the opposition. Later, Adviser to the P.M. on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan implied that the opposition had sought the postponement and the government had acceded to its demands.

Rubbishing this, PPP’s Rehman said no one in the opposition had approached the government to cancel or delay the joint session. “It was called by them and also cancelled because they were politically isolated by their allies. We have nothing to do with it,” she said, adding that the government had been forced to step back because its own allies had refused to vote for the EVMs. “They are afraid of being exposed and of facing defeats in Parliament,” she said, adding that the opposition had the numbers to block the passage of such bills.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Speaker Asad Qaiser said the government planned to convene the joint session of Parliament by Nov. 20 and was awaiting a positive response from the opposition parties. “A total of 28 bills will be presented for approval,” he said.

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