Govt looks to amend Army Act with its allies

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has started contacting its allies, as the government looks to amend the Army Act to ensure General Bajwa’s extension beyond six months.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met a delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Sunday in Karachi. Qureshi and MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui spoke to the media after their meeting.

“The MQM-P has always stood by the PTI government in difficult times,” he said. “Our next meeting in Islamabad will yield results.” He announced that a meeting between PTI and MQM, as well as other parties from Sindh in the centre as well as the opposition, would take place on December 5 in Islamabad.

Siddiqui said that the MQM-P would continue to support the PTI government. “We will continue our unconditional support to the PTI government,” he said.

Siddiqui said that the government was working on the demands of the MQM-P at a slow pace. He urged the government to play a vital role in Karachi and recognise it as a part of Pakistan.

Qureshi said that in these testing times when Pakistan was on the verge of bankruptcy, the prime minister had contacted friendly nations and later obtained a negotiated way forward with the International Monetary Fund.

“Today we have returned to stability. All the international financial institutions, World Bank, IMF, our stock exchange, our rupee which was artificially pegged to the market and has now seen an increase by Rs 4-5, the rise in foreign investments, all point toward the fact that we have stepped out of the crisis.”

He said the task now was to work out how this stability can be converted into growth that could enable the government to meet the expectations of voters. “No doubt when one casts a vote, they have expectations.”

He said voters everywhere in the country are well-informed and Karachi is one of the most “politically mature cities”. “When they are presented with the facts, they are wise and can sift the truth from false narratives.” He said PTI and MQM members had overviewed the situation. “Their analysis and our analysis on the larger picture, whether it is the national picture, the economic picture, or the local government situation, is similar.”

Qureshi said that keeping these facts in mind, the prime minister has extended an invitation for a meeting on December 5 to MQM as well as allies from Sindh in the opposition and those at the centre cooperating with PTI. He said PTI and MQM members had overviewed the situation. “Their analysis and our analysis on the larger picture, whether it is the national picture, the economic picture, or the local government situation, is similar.”

Qureshi said that keeping these facts in mind, the prime minister has extended an invitation for a meeting on December 5 to MQM as well as allies from Sindh in the opposition and those at the centre cooperating with PTI.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak announced that that the federal government had formed a three-member committee to negotiate with the opposition on constitutional reforms.

Besides himself, Khattak said that Federal Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would form the three-member committee. “We will introduce constitutional reforms with the help of the opposition,” he said.

The PTI and its allies on one side and opposition parties on the other have closely contested their positions in parliament. Given their respective numerical strengths, the ruling coalition has around 225 MPs, while the opposition has nearly 221 members, whereas the simple majority of the total lawmakers of 446 (342 MNAs and 104 senators) comes to 224. The PTI has 156 members of the National Assembly (MNAs). Its allies have varying numbers. The Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) have five members each; MQM has seven MPs; Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) has three lawmakers; Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) has four MNAs and Awami Muslim League and Jamhoori Watan Party have one member each, besides the support of two independents. They all come to 184.

In the Lower House of parliament, the PML-N has 84 MNAs, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has 55, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) has 16, and Awami National Party (ANP) has one lawmaker. Two independents stand with the opposition parties.

In the Senate, the PTI is represented by 15 legislators, the MQM by 5 senators, the BAP by two, and BNP-M and PML-Functional by one each. If the decisive number of 16 senators, including those elected from the erstwhile tribal areas, is placed in the government pocket, the total strength of the PTI and its allies come to 39 senators.

On the other hand, the PML-N has 31 senators (including Ishaq Dar, who can’t take part in voting for being abroad and not having taken oath); the PPP has 19 lawmakers; the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has four members, National Party has five legislators; Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party has two senators; and ANP has one senator. All of them come to 62 members.

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