All eyes are on Islamabad where the much-hyped gathering of the opposition leaders, aimed at devising a strategy to oust the PTI-led coalition government, is taking place.
PPP leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari delivered the opening speech at the PPP-hosted multiparty conference through video link.
Zardari thanked supreme leader of the PML-N Nawaz Sharif for virtually attending the conference and asked everyone to pray for the deposed prime minister’s health. Both Zardari and Nawaz, who are facing corruption cases, are currently out on bail on account of their health.
He criticised the government over what he called were “tactics” to suppress the opposition and media.
He welcomed Maryam, PML-N vice-president and daughter of Nawaz Sharif, and said he was happy to see her at the conference. “We have seen the difficulties she has faced and we can understand because my own sister has gone to jail and my wife went to jail […] We pay tribute to her and we are with you, and will keep fighting for your cause and you will keep fighting for ours, I am sure.”
Nawaz then addressed participants via video link from London, marking his political comeback after more than a year.
Leaders of PPP, including chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, started arriving at a five-star hotel in the capital, where the conference is being held, on Sunday morning. Senator Sherry Rehman while speaking to the media said that today’s would a “historic all-party conference”.
— PPP (@MediaCellPPP) September 20, 2020
Rehman had earlier told reporter that heads and representatives of 12 opposition parties would be attending the conference. It has been learnt that Jamaat-i-Islaami, however, has distanced itself from the gathering.
PML-N, National Party (NP), Awami National Party (ANP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Jamiatul Hadees are participating in the conference.
PML-N delegation, under party president and Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif, has arrived at the conference. The party delegation comprises Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq, Pervaiz Rasheed, Maryam Nawaz, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Rana Sanaullah, Ameer Maqam and Marriyum Aurangzeb.
‘No NRO, no airing of Nawaz’s speech’
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill, who held a press conference early on Sunday, reiterated the government’s stance that the opposition would not be given any NRO-like (National Reconciliation Ordinance) concession.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz termed the multiparty conference “a flimsy attempt to put pressure on the government to back off on accountability”.
“PM Imran Khan will never compromise his commitment on corruption. Hence no NRO,” he said ahead of the conference.
APC,a flimsy attempt to put pressure on the govt to back off,on accountability.Nation has witnessed that opposition has used politics for personal gains & used parliament to protect their personal empires .
PMIK will never compromise his commitment on corruption. Hence no NRO.
— Senator Shibli Faraz (@shiblifaraz) September 20, 2020
Following news of Nawaz’s address, Gill had warned “the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and other legal options” would be used if the PML-N supremo’s speech was aired by TV channels.
Rehman, however, said that the speeches would be “live streamed” on social media platforms.