Shehbaz floats idea of
national govt, fair election

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KARACHI: While floating an idea to establish the national government to resolve the present political crisis and to resolve other problems, PML-N President and National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif on Monday said that all political parties must be provided an equal chance and a level playing field for fair elections to form people’s government.

During a press briefing, Shehbaz Sharif said that. “We want only fair elections and there was no need of any reconciliatory or aggressive politics.” He said he had not seen that establishment had supported a government this much. Despite the establishment’s support, the incompetent government did not take any benefit from that.

Shehbaz Sharif visited Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum in Karachi and offered fateha to pay tribute to the founding father of the nation. He said that Nawaz Sharif was his leader and he would remain his leader. Shehbaz Sharif alleged that the incumbent government did not come from people’s votes.

He said Pakistan could regain its lost glory with honesty and hard work. Talking to media person, Shehbaz Sharif said that Quaid-e-Azam wanted to see Pakistan as a welfare state, and poet of the East Allama Muhammad Iqbal presented the idea of the state of Pakistan through his poetry.

“Standing at the Mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah after passing of 74 years since Independent, we feel shame that as a nation we did not follow the path of the great Quaid and Pakistan broke into two and even that we did not learn massage,” he added. Shehbaz Sharif said, “We support Afghan dialogue and it is up to the people of Afghanistan to choose their government.”

KARACHI: PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif speaks to reporters on Monday.

Shehbaz Sharif, who expressed these views in a candid conversation with journalists on the final leg of his three-day visit to Karachi, was not sure about the details and final shape of his own idea. But he was convinced that the solution of the current national problems, ranging from foreign policy to economy and from political uncertainty to fast-eroding space for true democratic forces, demanded a consensus national government.

“Frankly I am telling you that sometimes when I look at these huge problems and challenges, I feel convinced that it’s not possible for one party alone [to fix them],” he said. “It needs collective wisdom. It requires collective efforts. That’s why I think we should have a national government in place to sort out these huge tasks. I don’t know what the exact shape of this idea would be and the right time may make things clearer but for me it’s crucial. Even if we [PML-N] win a majority, we can’t fix it alone.”

Unlike chief of the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Mr Sharif went for a reconciliatory tone for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and wished the ruling party in Sindh “good luck” for its solo opposition strategy and explained reasons behind his such thoughts.

KARACHI: PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif coming out from Lahore Airport on his arrival from Karachi on Monday.

He then recounted the problems such as “economic blunder of Imran Khan government”, challenges at the foreign policy’s front in the backdrop of recent takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan, relations with the neighbours and “a growing international isolation”.

“From now onwards, it would take years to get things fixed. Whether it’s the economy, internal security, social sector reforms or foreign policy, they all need consistent and collective efforts from every true democratic force,” he said.

In his fresh visit to Karachi and comparatively longer stay than his previous tours, the former chief minister of Punjab was quite open about his plans for the metropolis. He came up with a sort of calculation for its rebuilding, development and restoring its status as financial capital.

“Believe [me] when I was chief minister of Punjab, I came to realise that funding or resources for development has never been an issue,” he cited before sharing his Karachi plan. “I have been here for three days meeting industrialists, businessmen, industrialists, political leaders, intellectuals, media persons and many others. I firmly believe Karachi only needs political will and ownership to turn things around. We do have a strong, in-depth and comprehensive strategy for Karachi but let me share with you one thing very briefly.

KARACHI: PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif chairing meeting of his party in Karachi on Monday.

“The federal government would have to pump in more money every year for Karachi than what is allocated by the Sindh government in its annual budget for the city’s development. And this cycle should continue for 15 or maybe 20 years. Then we would be able to fix this city’s problems.”

While giving answers to loads of questions one by one, Mr Sharif despite being opposition leader in the National Assembly showed his unawareness about state of affairs mainly in the context of the fast-developing situation in Afghanistan. Calling it “quite strange”, the PML-N president said even the elected parliament was not onboard about any narrative being built by the state on Taliban and their future government in the neighbouring country. “That’s not me or my party to articulate about the Afghanistan situation,” he asserted.

“PMDA bill worse than martial law”

Earlier in a meeting with the media owners, editors and representatives of journalist fraternity, Mr Sharif said he would take every possible step to prevent the passing of the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) bill from the parliament.

A comprehensive strategy would be chalked against the government move aimed at suppressing the free media in Pakistan, he said as leader of the opposition and president of one of the leading political parties.

“It’s a matter of life and death for the media industry,” he said while talking to a joint delegation of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND). “We would make every effort to stop this bill here at the National Assembly. I assure you that not only the opposition parties, I would meet the allies of the government and I am quite sure that none of them would be supporting this. This bill, if approved, would have consequences, which would be worse than martial law. We would make every effort to resist this bill at both houses [National Assembly and Senate].”