ISLAMABAD - The main opposition parties Thursday played down Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Wednesday meeting with US President Barack Obama. Some labelled it as a political gimmick to satisfy the domestic audience on key issues while others termed it a mere photo opportunity and courtesy call.
The Pakistan People’s Party termed the raising of the drones issue as a mere political slogan. While other PPP leaders spoke, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah didn’t offer a direct comment, saying he was waiting for the details which will enable him to come out with a proper reaction.
Another opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf said that the premier didn’t raise the drone issue with vigour and intensity. Interestingly, the Jamaat-e-Islami, an influential religio-political party, questioned whether the premier had actually raised key issues like drone strikes with the same intensity as being drummed up in the media.
When contacted, PPP central leader Taj Haider said that though the incumbent government claimed to have raised the matter of drone strikes for the first time by any prime minister of Pakistan, yet actually it could be taken as a mere ‘political slogan’. “It was just a slogan to gain political mileage. It is actually the PML-N’s style of working to create hype and do nothing,” he viewed.
On the Kashmir issue, the PPP leader was not much optimistic about any breakthrough by this parley between the two leaders. He also went to say that Nawaz Sharif had offered a setback to the country by the Kargil episode as it turned India from ‘aggressor to defender’. About raising energy issue with Obama, the PPP’s leader viewed that there might not be a concrete outcome of this meeting. It is relevant here the PM (talking to media after meeting with the US president) had said they discussed building a constructive relationship with Pakistan’s archrival India and resolution of the Kashmir issue.
PTI Central Information Secretary Shireen Mazari said it was unfortunate that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif failed to convey categorically Islamabad’s message to US President Obama to stop drone strikes. She further said that the recent Amnesty International report has pointed the illegal nature of these drone strikes that could be constituted as war crimes. Mazari said Pakistan’s political parties had given a consensual mandate to the federal government, just as they had done to the previous government, to stop the drone strikes.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Haider Abbas Rizvi categorically said that the outcomes of the PM’s visit to the United States could not been seen instantly. “If there is any development, it will definitely start appearing in months, weeks or days,” Rizvi said adding that many of things would further be deliberated by experts.
About highlighting the issue of drone attacks for the first time by any prime minister of Pakistan, the MQM leader said President Obama just uttered to find a constructive way that ‘respects Pakistan’s sovereignty’. “Obama just carefully listened to the point of view, but he did not give any nod to stop these strikes,” Rizvi believed.
It would not be out of place to mention here that a joint statement after the Washington meeting did not mention drone attacks, referring only to a need to respect ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’.
Commenting on the PM’s stance for discussing resolution of the Kashmir issue, Rizvi said that it could not be called result-oriented talks on this important matter. “Kashmir’s name might come in the discussion but it could not properly be discussed sans taking Indian’s point of view,” he added. In response to the matters of Dr Aafia and Shakeel Afridi, the MQM leader didn’t see any constructive discussion on these matters. When contacted, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawwar Hassan said though the incumbent government successfully created much hype about the 90-minute Obama-Nawaz meeting, yet it was nothing but a ‘photo session’. “I am not seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Munawwar Hassan, in response to any possible breakthrough after the PM’s visit to the US.
About drone strikes, Munawwar questioned the evidence of raising the matter of drones with US President Obama. “Where is the proof that this issue was deliberated in a meeting?” At least Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry should have given any proof about discussing these important matters, he added. About the Kashmir issue, the JI chief said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not raised the issue with the US President in the right way. He also felt some missing links in the discussion between Obama and Nawaz, saying there was no clear-cut stance on this important matter.
In his reaction, Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Dr Muhammad Tahirul Qadri claimed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to continue drone attacks during his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of his meeting with President Obama.
He said that the government, however, would continue to make hue and cry about putting an end to drone strikes for the face-saving aimed at deceiving the media and the people. He said that the agreement was also reached between the PM and John Kerry to give information to the American Security Agency unilaterally without taking the ISI into confidence. It was also agreed that Pakistan would purchase the American weapons worth billions of rupees, he said.