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Pakistan’s opposition parties’ uproar after govt move

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s capital remained abuzz with political activity as main opposition parties in uproar after the capital city police operation inside the Parliament Lodges and recent “threats” hurled by Prime Minister Imran Khan against opposition leaders.

Following the arrests of several workers and parliamentarians, JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman arrived at the Parliament Lodges to surrender himself before the police.

While speaking to the press, he urged all his party workers to reach the Parliament Lodges as soon as possible.

He said that the “government wants to abduct the Opposition’s members of the National Assembly by arresting them” to reduce their numbers during the session when the no-confidence motion is moved.

“I will surrender myself along with some of my friends,” he said, urging all workers to reach Islamabad as soon as possible.

“I request all party workers to block roads and shut down businesses,” Fazl said.

While speaking with media outside the Parliament Lodges late night, the JUI-F chief announced to call off the protest, demanding the government release his party workers.

“If our volunteers and workers were not released till 9 in the morning, we will again come out on roads to hold a protest against the incumbent government,” he said.

“We have completely jammed the whole country, and masses are out on the roads. However, we will keep up pressure on the government.”

On Thursday, Islamabad police conducted an operation inside the Parliament Lodges upon the command of the director-general of police (operations).

During the operation, the police arrested more than a dozen Ansar-ul-Islam workers a uniformed volunteer force of the JUI.

The DIG instructed the officials to evacuate media personnel from the building as they made their way towards the lodge of Ansar-ul-Islam MNA Salahuddin Ayubi which was situated on the fourth floor of the building.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari held a few meetings with political leaders, whereas party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) head Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb and Khurram Dastgir Khan addressed press conferences.

Meanwhile, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), a PTI government’s ally  and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal also held separate meetings with the PDM chief.

Addressing a presser in Sindh House in response to the prime minister’s recent scathing attack on the opposition, Mr Bilawal warned Mr Khan that “you won’t be able to forget what I will do with you.”

He said that since the beginning of PPP’s Awami March on Feb 27, there had been two incidents that could not be tolerated.

Referring to the first incident, the PPP leader said that the “physical attack” on Aseefa Bhutto through a drone camera during his party’s rally in Khanewal was “a message for Zardari and the party”.

“I have shown patience because I believe in freedom of the media. I watched the video in every way, from every angle. It did not look like an accident. The attack, which hit my sister directly, was a message to us” — for him and his father — for their “struggle to restore democracy”.

He demanded the country’s spy agency ISI and other investigation agencies probe this matter, adding that the PPP would also engage foreign experts to review the incident.

As for the second incident, he said the “selected” prime minister threatened his father and former president Zardari with a gun in a public meeting. “We will not tolerate this. We do not trust this government,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Prime Minister Khan said in that speech that Asif Ali Zardari was his next target and that his “gun was now pointed” at the former president.

“We have not used a gun, but we know how to use it,” Bilawal told the premier. “Do politics with us, but if you are threatening us, then you must be ready to face the consequences as well.”

The prime minister’s speech was a sign of “desperation”, he said, adding that “cursing the opposition will not save his seat”.

He also hinted that the PPP was considering a legal course against the premier’s speech.

Khan’s and Bilawal’s remarks came amid a heated political landscape in the country, as the opposition seeks to oust the prime minister through a no-trust motion in the National Assembly. A delegation of senior opposition lawmakers already submitted the motion with the NA Secretariat earlier this week.

Bilawal said during Thursday’s press conference that he was “very confident” that the opposition would succeed in removing the premier through a parliament vote.

After the press conference, Bilawal, along father Asif Ali Zardari, presided over a meeting of the PPP’s parliamentary group at Sindh House and shared the current emerging political situation.

Sources said PPP leaders informed their parliamentarians that they should stay in Islamabad until the voting on the no-confidence motion. They also told them that opposition parties had the required number to send PM Imran Khan home.

Meanwhile, PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb and Khurram Dastgir Khan lambasted Prime Minister Imran Khan for his foreign policy and mishandling the Kashmir issue.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, they said that Khan’s “coward and weak” foreign policies helped India to annex Jammu and Kashmir.

With his “false and irresponsible” statements on many occasions, Prime Minister Imran Khan attacked state institutions, Dastgir said.

He said that while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in 2019, Prime Minister Khan said that the Pakistani Army and ISI trained Al-Qaida “and all these troops to fight in Afghanistan”.

Dastgir said the prime minister also stated during an interview that Pakistan would roll back its nuclear programme once the Kashmir issue was settled.

Similarly, during his visit to Iran, the prime minister said he knew that Iran suffered from attacks perpetrated by groups operating from Pakistan, the PML-N leader said.

He said that on another occasion, Mr Khan said that former president Pervez Musharraf faced “insider attacks” on his life twice. “Such statements make it clear who tried to attack the institutions,” Mr Dastgir said.

Aurangzeb said that a frustrated prime minister had been hurling life threats to members of opposition parties, adding that the days of Mr Khan’s government were numbered.

She said this government had been trying to gauge media freedom, but the opposition parties would take steps to ensure freedom of the press.

Meanwhile, BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal also called on Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, both leaders said the oppositions parties would send Imran Khan home with a no-confidence motion, adding that opposition parties had more than the required numbers.

Similarly, MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui after a meeting with the Maulana told the media that his party would review the opposition’s no-trust motion, adding that MQM-P was also concerned about democracy and hoped that there should be no harm to democracy in an attempt to send the government packing.

Siddiqui said his party was monitoring all aspects and looking into all options.

The MQM-P delegation also met Mr Zardari and discussed the developing political situation.

In another major political development in Islam­abad, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak’s brother and former PTI member Liaquat Khattak joined the JUI-F.

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