ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) for the first time has invited Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM)- both religio-political parties have no representation in the parliament- to attend joint opposition’s meeting called on July 19 (Tuesday) to discuss Panama Leaks.

The PAT and MWM have been invited to join the joint opposition’s meeting to discuss a unanimous strategy after the talks between the government and the opposition had failed to finalise terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed judicial commission to probe Panama papers, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi told The Nation.

This is the first time that two religio-political parties having no representation in the parliament are being invited in the joint opposition’s meeting that is comprised nine opposition parties having representation in the parliament. The official sources in PTI said that both parties had assured their participation in the meeting.

“Basically, it is a consultation meeting because there has been no progress on the ToRs for the proposed judicial commission,” said Qureshi said adding that the opposition would look into parliamentary, legal and political options to find a strategy to push the government for conducting investigation into the Panama Leaks.

Another meeting of the nine-party opposition bloc held on last Wednesday had decided to convene a meeting of all opposition parties, inside and outside the parliament, on July 19 on the proposal of PTI. PTI itself is hosting the grand opposition meeting. The Wednesday’s meeting had deliberated on the names proposed by the government for appointment of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), but failed to develop a consensus to propose four names. Shah Mahmood Qureshi during his media interaction after the meeting had said he had personally contacted the leaders of all opposition parties, including the ANP and the MQM, and they had all agreed to attend the July 19 meeting.

We have got invitation of the nine opposition parties to attend July 19 meeting and PTI has come as a messenger, Nasir Sherazi, Deputy Secretary General MWM told The Nation. “However, the meeting will only be limited to the discussion of legal and technical aspects of the ToRs as we will not be part of any political movement at the moment,” he said adding that all nine parties had unanimously decided to extend the joint opposition with the inclusion of two parties-MWM and PAT- out of the parliament. He said that though MWM has welcomed the invitation but it had yet to be finalised who from the party would attend the meeting. “We will internally review the invitation,” he said.

The version of PAT could not be taken despite repeated attempts. The opposition is taking this step after a 12-member parliamentary committee comprising six members each from the government and opposition in its eight meetings failed to develop a consensus on ToRs.

The government claims that the opposition wanted to include Prime Minister’s name in the ToRs that showed its bias towards PM Nawaz Sharif. While the opposition blames that the government was not serious to get probe the issue as the name of PM’s family had come among those Pakistanis whose names have surfaced in Panama papers for having off-shore wealth. Earlier, the joint opposition had boycotted of the parliamentary committee saying talks will resume only if the government would come up with a positive response to six core points in connection to ToRs.

During parliamentary committee meetings, the differences in the nine-party opposition bloc also surfaced, as the MQM and the ANP wanted that PM’s name should be excluded in the ToRs.

PPP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan has been claiming in the past that government had been wrongly claiming that disagreement persists only on inclusion of the PM’s name in the ToRs. He views that there are six points on which the government and the opposition have differences.

These points also include the introduction of a special law, providing a framework of investigations, to probe into the Panama Papers and obtaining a power of attorney from the person named in the Panama Papers which will give investigators mandate to probe the money trail and to carry out forensic audit of all transactions. Another point of disagreement is that the burden of proof should shift to a respondent to establish that his/her income through which assets have been purchased is legal.