LAHORE   -   In a significant political development, scions of two arch rivals, the PPP and the PML-N, met here at Raiwind for the second time to discuss options to tighten noose around the government.

Flanked by his close aides, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited Jati Umra residence of Sharifs on Sunday on the invitation of PML-N’s vice-President Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Held against the backdrop of arrests of the top party leadership of the two parties, the meeting was aimed at increasing cooperation between the two parties to work out a joint strategy against the government.

In the first session, Bilawal was assisted by Qamar Zaman Kaira, Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, Ch Manzoor Ahmad and Hassan Murtaza. Maryam’s team included Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Former Sindh Governor, Muhammad Zubair, Ayyaz Sadiq, Rana Sana Ullah and Maryam Aurangzeb.

According to sources, Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto also had a one-on-one meeting after the lunch.

Following this meeting, the two parties issued a joint statement to share details about the issues discussed by the two sides.

The statement said that the PML-N and the PPP were in agreement that allowing the incompetent and imposed PTI regime to implement the fatal budget could deal irreparable damage to the country and hence could not be allowed to continue.

They agreed on a future course of action and decided to devise a final plan after consulting with their respective party heads. Also, a meeting of the PML-N Parliamentary Party has been called on Monday (today) for this purpose.

Maryam and Bilawal called the 2006 Charter of Democracy signed by Nawaz Sharif and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed a historic document. Both leaders agreed to revitalize and reinvent the charter to lay the foundation for a joint action against the PTI regime which, according to them, had jeopardized the country’s sovereignty, economy and security.

The leaders of both parties noted that despite surrendering the country’s economy to international financial lenders and handing over the reins of the country in the hands of outsiders, the situation was getting worse. They pointed out that despite record-breaking loans taken by the PTI regime over the past 10 months, depleting foreign reserves, crisis-hit stock market, halved growth rate, total choking of development spending, stunted China Pakistan Economic Corridor and a total investment gridlock had landed the country in a grave catastrophe.

They demanded that the government must withdraw the fictitious references filed against honorable judges as a pressure tactic. They agreed to stand firm in the struggle for the independence and supremacy of the judiciary and the constitution of Pakistan.

“The references filed against the honorable judges are based on ill intent and tantamount to an attack on the freedom of the judiciary”, the statement said.

They also demanded that the production orders of all detained Members of provincial and national parliament must be issued with immediate effect so that they can represent the people who elected them to this office.

 

They were in agreement that after two failed mini-budgets, the first budget of the PTI regime had hammered the last nail in the economy’s coffin with policies that would lead to virtually zero growth, skyrocketing inflation and exponential unemployment.

The meeting also took notice of Chairman National Accountability Bureau’s what they called “unilateral vengeful actions and targeted selective implementation of laws against opposition’s leadership in connivance with the sitting government”. They also deliberated on the approach and behavior of the “courts vis-à-vis fictitious cases conjured up by NAB tailor-made for political victimization”.

Considering how the PTI took for granted opposition’s support for democratic process despite a disputed election and imposition of a selected government,  the meeting considered options regarding  the All Parties Conference proposed by JUI-F leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman.

Maryam and Bilawal condemned the coercive tactics both physical and economic being used to harass and subjugate the free press and broadcast news media of the country and called for an end to the brutal and tyrannical censorship being imposed to hide the ugly face of the government.

In a significant move, Maryam and Bilawal also decided to contact leaders of other political parties including coalition partners of the government to broaden the scope of a joint front against the government. The two leaders, according to the statement, also noted that government’s coalition partners were not feeling comfortable working with it due to its flawed policies.

Bilawal Bhutto had on Saturday told the media that he was going to Jati Umra on the invitation of Maryam Nawaz in view of the fact that no single party could steer the country out of crises. This was the second meeting between the Sharif and Bhutto scions in less than a month.

Commenting on the meeting between the two leaders, Senior PML-N leader and former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair Sunday said that the meeting itself was a big political development.

According to him, the meeting should be a matter of concern for the government.

Party’s Punjab President, Rana Sana Ullah said that a decision about starting agitation against the government will be taken in the All Parties Conference (APC) and his party would follow the decisions taken by the APC.