Minister suggests Pakistan government should hold talks with opposition

Islamabad: The political confrontation between the government and opposition reached a crucial point following the sixth power show of opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), on Sunday in Lahore.

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Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhary has suggested that the government should hold talks with the opposition. In a tweet on Monday morning, Fawad claimed that “the opposition narrative is practically dead” after the much-hyped Lahore rally attracted a few thousand attendees. Nevertheless, the “government should in any case pave the way for the beginning of negotiations with the opposition.”

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Later on Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan is due to hold a meeting with cabinet minister and coalition leaders to discuss the future strategy to deal with the opposition. The PDM is expected to put pressure on the government with a long march planned towards Islamabad and resignations from the national and provincial assemblies.

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Flop show

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The comments of the federal minister came after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) representatives termed the PDM public rally a “flop show” and a proof that the people of Punjab had rejected the opposition’s narrative. The newly inducted Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that despite the coronavirus threat, the opposition is continuing protest rallies and risking the lives of the public.

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Commenting on the opposition 11-party alliance rally, Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his tweet, said that “PDM spent so much money, time, effort and displayed utter callousness by endangering people’s lives during COVID-19 spike.”

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Khan restated his stance that the opposition parties would not get any National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) or a power-sharing concession, seeking parliamentary approval for amnesty from graft and other charges. “All this just to blackmail me into giving them an NRO to save their looted wealth. Let me once again reiterate: I will never give an NRO. Whatever future plans of further blackmail PDM may have, my message is categorical: There will never be an NRO from my government no matter what tactics the looters devise.”

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March towards Islamabad

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The opposition’s rally, led by PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, managed to attract a significant number of people despite the strict coronavirus guidelines put in place. The opposition leaders said the “incompetent and illegitimate government” would not be allowed to rule, adding that the opposition will only “rest after the PTI government is brought to an end.” Although no definite date was given for the march, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman put the timeframe for the march at the start of late January or early February next year.

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The government does not seem to be moved by the opposition’s threat of resignations and has said it would go for by-elections in the country if the opposition members resigned from the assemblies. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asked the opposition parties to stop the drama and resign from assemblies straightway.

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Another Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs made a rather sarcastic comment over the opposition’s warning to resign from Parliament by saying that “first five members who would submit their resignations to the Speaker would be awarded Umra tickets”.

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