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Is APC a venture doomed to fail for the Opposition?

Track record of PPP and PML suggests a weak working relationship between the two parties. Is there any serious challenger to the government?

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Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday met Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari during a visit to Karachi. Both leaders agreed to summon an All Parties Conference (APC) to muster up a joint strategy against the incumbent government.

There are speculations that the united opposition may pose a serious challenge to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in the coming weeks. This viewpoint, with the help of past events, presents a background to understanding whether the opposition is serious about mounting a challenge against the rule of PM Imran Khan.

A meeting of the Rehbar Committee of the APC has been summoned on Thursday (today) which will be attended by representatives of 11 opposition parties. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) senior leader Akram Durrani will chair the forthcoming meeting in Islamabad, according to sources familiar with the developments.

From premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq, and Marriyum Aurangzeb will also participate in the meeting. Sources said that the Rehbar Committee will hold a discussion to strengthen the alliance of opposition parties besides mulling over strategies for running anti-government movements.

Read More: High Treason: Should Maulana Fazlur Rehman be tried under article 6?

In a major development, the PPP leadership has ended a boycott of the Rehbar Committee’s meeting and decided to attend the upcoming session today, sources told GVS. Earlier, the political party dissociated itself from the Rehbar Committee after showing serious reservations over the functioning of the APC.

JI will not attend APC

The politico-religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has announced it will not become part of any political alliance. A central leader of the party, Liaqat Baloch, said in a statement that Majlis-i-Shura of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) had made a decision to continue all political activities in the country under its own flag.

While referring to the alliance of opposition parties, Liaqat Baloch said that JI leadership has given a clear message to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) of not being part of any coalition after getting an invitation from its supremo Maulana Fazlur Rehman to join the APC.

Previous attempt to topple PTI government

It is not for the first time that the opposition parties are attempting to get rid of the government. Back in 2018, after losing the election, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, President of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), threatened to disrupt the political process in the country if the results of the General Elections 2018 were not declared “null and void”.

The MMA president chaired a meeting along with the president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad. The two leaders rejected the results of the General Election 2018 and demanded ‘free and fair’ re-election across the country. “The All Parties Conference has completely rejected the July 25, 2018 elections with consensus,” announced Rehman while addressing the media after the meeting concluded. “We do not consider this election to be the mandate of the public,” said the defeated MMA president.

However, he was not fully supported by other opposition political parties. For example, the PPP said that it does not reject the results completely rather it has questions about the electoral process.  Later on, the PPP Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that his party rejects election results but, at the same time, the PPP was going to play a role of an exemplary opposition in the national assembly, since the PPP managed to get a simple majority in Sindh and it was interested to form a government in the province. Hence, PPP could not afford to boycott the National Assembly.

Read More: Maulana Fazlur Rehman meets Shehbaz Sharif: What is its significance?

Then again in 2019, the JUI-F’s chief announced to topple the government if the premier and his cabinet did not step down. He also said that there was going to be a freedom march in the months to come. He said: “This is our last long march and next will be our Freedom March in Islamabad if the PTI government does not resign in August. After holding 14 successful million marches across the country, today we have arrived in Quetta and this sea of people shows what the people of Pakistan want.”

After consultation with the opposition parties, to get rid of PTI, Maulana postponed his proposed Azadi March from August to October. Initially, it was 27th Oct which Pakistan celebrates every year as Kashmir Solidarity Day. After criticism from all walks of life, Maulana changed the date and announced to lead a march in Islamabad on 31st October.

Neither PPP nor PML-N supported the idea of dharna and urged Maulana to keep the gathering limited to a protest. After 13-days long Dharna in the federal capital, the JUI-F’s chief announced to call it off.

Shehbaz Sharif is known for having close links with the establishment. Sources inside PML-N are of the view that Shehbaz never supported any idea leading to the politics of confrontation. “Shehbaz Sharif has a close working relationship with the establishment and he may never go against the government until it is being supported by the powers that be,” they added.

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