Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday that December 31 had passed but lawmakers from the opposition were yet to hand in their resignations.
His remarks came prior to a Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) meeting scheduled for today at Raiwind to decide on the issue of en masse resignations and participation in the upcoming elections on a number of seats of the national and provincial assemblies and the Senate.
PDM president and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had announced on Dec 8 that all the national and provincial lawmakers belonging to the opposition would hand over their resignations individually to the leadership of their parties by Dec 31.
Calling this to mind, Qureshi said during a press conference that initially PDM leaders had decided that lawmakers would hand over their resignations to Rehman. However, the PPP disagreed with the decision, contending that resignations be handed over to the leaders of respective opposition parties, he added.
“We see a lack of confidence here,” the foreign minister remarked.
He further said he did not see the 11-party opposition alliance reaching a consensus on the issue of resignations in today’s meeting of the PDM.
Similarly, he said, the January 31 deadline set by the PDM for Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign too would pass without the premier stepping down.
Referring to the PDM’s warning of staging a long march in Islamabad in case the prime minister does not quit, Qureshi claimed that many members of the PPP’s Central Executive Committee, for now, had not agreed on a date for the march and had even made the march conditional to the return of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.
“It is clear that Prime Minister Imran Khan will not resign on January 31,” he said. “And why should he? He has the mandate, confidence of the house and people’s votes.”
Qureshi said the PPP had decided that it would not tender resignations, that it would participate in by-polls, and that it would not distance itself from the Senate elections.
He raised the question that if today’s PDM meeting was being termed the most important session of the opposition alliance, then why PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was joining it via video link and hadn’t travelled to Raiwind to attend the session.
He further pointed out that the PPP was being represented by former prime ministers Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Yousuf Raza Gilani, both of whom he said were against tendering resignations.
“Ashraf himself is an MNA and if he believes that [tendering] resignations is the way forward … then he may submit his resignation,” the minister said. “Similarly, if Gilani thinks tendering resignation is a political [solution], his son, a member of the Punjab Assembly, may hand in his resignation to the provincial assembly speaker.”
This will show that the opposition is serious about resigning, he said.
Qureshi further said both Ashraf and Gilani, though respectable personalities, lacked “authority”. It is Asif Ali Zardari who has the authority to make decisions in the PPP, he stated.
The minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf realised the need to abide by the Constitution and invited opposition parties for a dialogue in the parliament.
“But set aside NRO,” he stressed. “We are ready to talk and exchange views on national issues.”
Replying to a question, he said the nation had realised the parties constituting the PDM lacked understanding. “It is a temporary and unnatural alliance,” he said.
Responding to another question, he said NRO was a means to evade accountability and the opposition wish to get an NRO was apparent following the PPP and PML-N’s stance on amendments in the FATF-related legislation.
He said the PTI believed in accountability and understood that there was a difference between accountability and revenge.
“We never believed in revenge and nor do we now, but accountability should be ensured as it is the nation’s need and will,” stressed Qureshi.
He said rifts within the JUI-F on the PDM’s narrative, too, were visible.
In response to another question, he said the opposition had united under the banner of the PDM to evade accountability and now, the “need to save the Sindh government and advance the PPP’s political agenda” had created rifts in the alliance.
When asked about reports of Pakistan recognising Israel, Qureshi said there was no truth in the reports and that chapter was closed.
Condemning the burning of a Hindu temple in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak district, he said it was an “irresponsible” act and called for elements who set the temple on fire to be brought to justice.
“If we want our mosques to be respected in India and other countries, we will have to respect mandirs, gurdwaras and churches [here],” he said.
He said the persons involved in such incidents damaged the image of Pakistan internationally and provided an opportunity to India and other forces working against Pakistan to do propaganda against it.