Post-Eid conference by Dawn Editorial

THE ingredients were all there. A PML-N delegation had just called on PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Lahore that is considered an auspicious venue for nascent movements. A multiparty conference is set to be held after Eidul Azha. Yet there is something missing. At the gathering of members of the country’s two biggest opposition parties, the setbacks that make things easier for the PTI government were noted. But true to tradition, there was no great search for a new direction, not even a sustained common ambition. It can be said though that the ground had been better prepared this time. Mr Bhutto-Zardari arrived in Lahore against the backdrop of a consultation he and his father, Asif Ali Zardari, had held with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is almost certainly going to be a very important component of any opposition alliance against Prime Minister Imran Khan. The PPP chairman also contacted Mian Shahbaz Sharif after landing in the Punjab capital to further prepare the ground for talks on a joint front that Mr Bhutto-Zardari has been very keen to create for some time now. But whereas he would be hoping that the long-stuck opposition ship is about to set sail in the right direction, the reluctance reportedly shown by Mr Sharif over participating in the conference could represent a huge hindrance.

All talk of PPP and PML-N must start with a basic question: can they ever trust each other? In this particular case, Mr Bhutto-Zardari is out to sell a messy option to a true connoisseur of drawing-room games. He is taking a route that the PML-N’s own politicians have found difficult to tread. Mr Sharif may be indisposed and thus a doubtful starter for the MPC. However, his party colleagues, as well as opposition politicians such as Maulana Fazlur Rehman, betrayed by friends while he was on the march to Islamabad, can confirm how unyielding Mr Sharif can be to demands of protest, let alone street agitation. Impatient, pro-action opposition elements would have been more comfortable dealing with Mian Nawaz Sharif or Maryam Nawaz. That was not to be and now they are confronted with the task of ensuring that their post-Eid huddle is successful. It is too big an occasion to be marked by merely deriding the government. The opposition alliance led by the PPP and PML-N has to ensure the presence of all stars and come up with a plan befitting of an Eid milan party.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2020

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