PTI lawmakers unhappy over boycott move

ISLAMABAD: The decision of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership to boycott Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s address to a joint session of parliament has caused resentment within the party, particularly among the parliamentarians.

When contacted, a number of PTI’s members of the National Assembly and senators complained that they had not been consulted by the party’s leaders over the matter.

They also expressed their anger over the fact that such a major decision had been taken by a ‘media strategy committee’, which had been formed to formulate the party’s response over the hearings of the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court and to respond to the statements of the ministers on the issue.

The PTI announced on Saturday that its legislators would stay away from the joint session of parliament which the government planned to convene on Nov 17 so that the visiting Turkish president could address the lawmakers.

After a meeting of the media strategy committee, PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi declared that the party had taken the decision because it could not attend the sitting which would be held under a “controversial prime minister” who was facing corruption charges.

Mr Qureshi said the PTI considered Turkey as the country’s “sincere friend” and a brother Muslim state and had great respect for the Turkish president, but it had a clear viewpoint on the Panama Papers offshore holdings scam case being heard by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

“I came to know about the party’s decision to boycott parliament through a newspaper in the morning,” a PTI MNA from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said.

The MNA complained that no one among the top party leaders had bothered to seek the opinion of the parliamentarians on the move.

Party sources told Dawn that the leadership had not even consulted PTI’s parliamentary leader in Senate Nauman Wazir before announcing for the first time that its senators would also not participate in the joint sitting.

Another MNA said it was strange that the party known for the use of modern technology and communication through WhatsApp and Twitter did not seek their opinion through these tools before announcing the decision.

He said he even did not see any logic in continuing the boycott of the National Assembly after the acceptance of one of the party’s demands that the prime minister should present himself for accountability.

“If the party can cancel its protest after the start of the hearing of the Panama case in the Supreme Court, then there seems to be no logic in continuing the boycott of parliament,” said.

Moreover, he said, there was no role of the so-called strategy committee in the party’s structure.

A former member of the PTI’s advisory committee, Abdul Qayyum Kundi, issued a statement, saying that as a member of the party he opposed the decision of the “unconstitutional and illegitimate committee” to boycott the joint session of parliament where the Turkish president would speak.

“We should not make his visit controversial by subjecting it to our domestic political jostling. The PTI has already lost substantial goodwill with our Chinese friends by issuing controversial statements about the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) which is one of the top priority initiatives of President Xi Jinping and an important part of his five-year plan,” he said.

“Boycotting the speech of the Turkish president will send a wrong signal. I request chairman Imran Khan to reconsider this decision and become part of the parliamentary process,” he said.

Qureshi defends move

Mr Qureshi, when contacted, defended the decision of boycotting parliament, saying the MNAs and senators could not be contacted because of paucity of time.

He said the committee comprised senior party leaders, including himself, PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen and MNAs Asad Umar, Shafqat Mehmood, Arif Alvi, Munazza Hassan and Shireen Mazari.

When his attention was drawn to the photograph released by the party’s media office after the meeting in which he himself was not present besides Mr Tareen and Dr Alvi, Mr Qureshi said he had reached the venue perhaps after it had been taken.

He said Mr Tareen was in Multan and Dr Alvi in Karachi but both of them had been consulted.

However, he agreed with the complaint of the MNAs and senators that they could also have been consulted through the communication technology. Since parliament was not in session, there was no time to hold consultations with every parliamentarian, he said. He said the party’s parliamentarians were bound to “toe” the decision of the leadership.

Mr Qureshi said a party delegation, led by him, would call on the Turkish ambassador on Monday to apprise him of the background of the decision.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2016