LAHORE   -  Top leaders of a number of opposition parties at an 8-hour JUI-F-sponsored conference in Islamabad on Wednesday identified important problems facing the country and their ‘solutions’. The first ‘remedy’ that these ‘visionaries’ from all federating units came up with was to remove Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, hailing from the most backward province – Balochistan.

The first such moot against the PTI government also decided to observe July 25 as black day because the elections held on this day a year ago were allegedly ‘massively rigged’. They rejected the national budget for 2019-20, the establishment of National Development Council (of which the COAS has been nominated as a member), as well as the commission that will investigate how debts obtained in the past 10 years were utilised.

Bad state of economy was referred to only in general terms but there was no mention of the free fall of rupee or the measures needed to control it.

(On Wednesday the dollar-rupee parity was 1: 163, something mindboggling).

It is beyond comprehension why the opposition leaders did not give the economic meltdown due importance at the conference.

Had our leaders been affected by uncontrollable inflation, this issue that has hit hard all spheres of life should have given them sleepless nights, and treasury and opposition leaders should have buried the hatchet for some time and joined heads to find a solution on war footing.

Now the question is who gained/lost what from the conference and whether the opposition parties’ ‘priorities’ for steering the country out of the prevailing situation are right.

One fails to understand the very purpose of the conference. The issues raised at the conference were the ones raised in parliament many a time. The conference has only undermined the status of the bicameral legislature. It has also negated the very purpose of elections.

In elections voters decide who should or shouldn’t be in the assemblies. If those rejected by people are to be treated at par with the elected ones, as was the case at the APC, then there is no need for spending billions of rupees on elections after every few years.

The argument that some leaders who were not part of parliament had added their voice to APC’s demands carries no weight.

The decisions taken at the APC would not help advance the democratic process.

Many are of the view any move to oust the Senate chairman will lead to new tensions in the upper house of parliament. The chairman and the ruling party will start making efforts to get the support of as many Senators as possible. The opposition, on the other hand, will do its best for the success of the initiative. These moves and countermoves will add to the state of uncertainty, which will further ruin the businesses and economy. When people of Balochistan are not tolerating a reference against a Supreme Court judge (which has to be decided by the Supreme Judicial Council, a body of five top judges), how will they digest the ouster of their leader as Senate chairman? This means if they are against the PTI for moving a reference against a judge from Balochistan, now they will turn against the PML-N, PPP and their allies for their mischief against a Balochistan leader.

An analysis of the outcome shows that the APC host, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, had to face tremendous embarrassment for a second time in the past three quarters. He is reported to have suggested the legislators to resign from their seats. But both major parties PML-N and the PPP rejected the idea on the plea that it was not in their interest. His idea for protests has also been shelved for the time being as no agitation can be launched when temperatures are so high.

People still remember that defeated in the July 2018 elections, the Maulana had tried to persuade the legislators-elect not to take oath because of the alleged irregularities in the electoral process. His suggestion had been turned down by all parties and they are part of the assemblies. Even Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s son is a part of the National Assembly.

Political observers are of the view that the opposition parties are doing no service to themselves by calling Imran Khan a ‘selected prime minister’. This is an allegation that means he had been brought to power by the establishment. And when they bracket Imran with the establishment they in fact antagonise the latter. Can a movement both against the PTI and the establishment succeed?

The PML-N leadership, discovered, promoted and protected by Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan and Gen Ziaul Haq, knows well that a campaign against the establishment is like striking one’s head against the wall.

The PTI saved itself from a big embarrassment by keeping Akhtar Mengal part of the coalition. The party gave an assurance to the BNP chief that all his demands would be met.

Had the BNP chief broken ranks with the ruling coalition and participated in the APC, the opposition would have got an opportunity to portray it as a major defeat of the government.

Whatever the opposition’s future plans, the ruling coalition would have to take urgent measures to save the economy. It’s a fact that the team of imported ‘specialists’ has failed to control the slide and much more needs to be done. Good or bad response to the amnesty scheme, expiring on June 30, will also play a role in shaping up the future scenario.