‘Your ultimatum stands rejected,’ Qureshi tells opposition

Rejecting the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) January 31 ultimatum seeking Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi categorically told the opposition on Tuesday that their “deadline stands rejected”.

Fresh from the conclusion of the first phase of its anti-government campaign that saw six opposition rallies in all the four provinces, the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) changed gear on Monday, setting a deadline for the government to quit by January 31.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad in the capacity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) vice chairman, Qureshi asserted that, “We are categorically stating that the prime minister will not stand down. Assemblies will not be dissolved! The country cannot function on your whims”.

Qureshi questioned the opposition saying, “How can you ask for an undemocratic, unconstitutional demand when you claim to be running a movement ‘founded on democratic values’.”.

“Let’s assume that there is an election, and you get the mandate. Why would the PTI then accept your mandate? Where will this political instability then lead us?” the PTI leader asked the opposition.

Slamming Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s remarks, made at PDM’s December 13, Lahore rally, regarding the time for talks being over, the minister said: “one day you say the time for dialogue is over, the next day you hold a press conference, saying that a dialogue can only be held on one condition, that a new election is called”.

“What is this dialogue about then if there is no room for one?” the senior PTI official asked.

“Son, I think it’s your time to learn that the time for talks is never over! And if you want to learn something about this, learn from your grandfather [Zulfikar Ali Bhutto],” he said. Further criticising the statement, Qureshi said, “This is inexperience talking.”

The minister observed that the opposition was only going to dismantle democracy through these kinds of demands and attitude, and not strengthen it.

“Learn from the lessons of history,” Qureshi advised, adding that politics was the art of the possible.

Leaders of the 11 constituent parties met in Lahore for four hours on Monday, after holding the overnight public gathering at the Minar-e-Pakistan, to sign the ‘Lahore Declaration’ that said that alliance leadership would unveil plans for a long march on the federal capital, if the government did not resign.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PDM President and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that all lawmakers from the opposition parties would submit their resignations from the assembly seats to their respective party leadership by December 31.

“Today, we want to make clear to the government that it should resign by January 31,” Fazl, flanked by Bilawal and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, told reporters.

“And if the government does not resign, the final date of the long march towards Islamabad will be announced on February 1,” the PDM chief added, appealing to the nation “to start preparations for the long march from today”.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)