ISLAMABAD: In the eyes of many within the PTI, Imran Khan should have presented his position on the Panamagate issue after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif defended his family’s business history in the National Assembly on Monday.
However, they said that since it was the collective stand of their nine-party alliance to stage a walkout in case the prime minister didn’t respond to their seven queries, the PTI wholeheartedly supported the decision of the combined opposition.
Talking to Dawn, PTI MNA Asad Umar said that at the party meeting held earlier on Monday at Bani Gala, “we were of the opinion that Mr Khan would make a speech on the floor of the house, for which he was very well prepared.”
Mr Umar added, however, that at opposition alliance huddle in the evening, they all agreed that if the PM continued harping on his old stance, they would boycott the session. The rest, as they say, was history.
Echoing the sentiment, Dr Arif Alvi told Dawn that “in the past, PTI had been derided for opting for a ‘solo flight’ on different issues. But now that we are going by the collective decision, people are arguing that we have missed an opportunity to effectively respond to the prime minister there and then.”
Dr Alvi also argued that Panamagate wasn’t a PTI-specific issue, therefore, “I personally believe a joint opposition stand is the best way forward. Moreover, if some party from within the opposition alliance parts ways with it tomorrow, it will become clear who is playing second fiddle to the government.”
However, there is strong general perception that the opposition should have utilised the oppurtunity and challenged the prime minster about his claims before the packed house in the full view of the media. Political analysts across the board are convinced that the opposition shot itself in the foot by not rising to the occasion.
For political analyst Dr Rasool Bakhsh Rais, “it was one of the worst moments in the history of the opposition. The whole nation was waiting for their response, but they didn’t rise to the challenge and simply looked unprepared.”
“The opposition’s decision not to respond to the prime minister was actually against the basic norms of parliamentary politics, because the [National Assembly] is the right the forum to discuss these issues.”
To a question, Dr Rais said that one might have a different viewpoint, but the prime minister did appear on the floor of the house and presented his case. “I don’t know whose advice the opposition took, but for me, it was an absolutely poor decision.”
During an interview with Hamid Mir, broadcast on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah argued that in hindsight, it was a good move. In case the opposition had opted to respond, he said, the house could have descended into total chaos, as has happened in the past.
When asked if Aitzaz Ahsan or Sheikh Rashid were behind the decision to boycott, the PPP leader insisted, “It was a move taken in total agreement with all opposition parties, including the MQM.”
To a question about the MQM parting ways with the opposition alliance, Mr Shah said the party was in hot waters these days and its decision was definitely related to issues in Karachi. Mr Shah also said he was going to respond to the PM’s speech on Wednesday.
Similarly, the PTI also announced that Imran Khan will be presenting his case on the floor of the house on Wednesday.