Pakistan's Opposition alliance has backed out from holding talks with the Imran Khan government, widening political rift between the two sides.
A three-member government delegation, which had met the Opposition leaders on Friday, seeking better relations at least in Parliament, were to hold another round of talks with Opposition parties on Monday. However, following the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentary party's meeting in the Parliament House, which was also addressed by party's vice president Maryam Nawaz, the Opposition dropped the idea of holding the talks, the Dawn News reported. Instead it was all set to stage a protest during the National Assembly session if the treasury had managed to bring in the required number of members to the House after quorum was pointed out by a PML-N member. But the treasury side could not meet the quorum following which proceedings of the Lower House were adjourned till Tuesday, according to the paper.
It had been hoped that the government-opposition meeting on Monday would have lowered the political temperature, but instead the gulf between both sides widened.
The Opposition members even carried placards inscribed with anti-government slogans. They also placed portraits of their jailed leaders -- Shahbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif and Khursheed Shah --- on their tables, facing the National Assembly Speaker. However, the Opposition did not stage a protest in the House after the proceedings stalled due to lack of quorum.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Syed Naveed Qamar said the Opposition did not go for the talks as the PML-N was busy in its parliamentary party meeting. "We cannot meet the government without PML-N," he was quoted as saying by the daily.
One other hand, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan told Dawn that PPP members came for the meeting but not the PML-N representatives.
"It was decided in our (government-opposition) Friday's meeting that we will meet again on Monday but the opposition did not meet its commitment today," he added.
The state minister, however, hinted that the government planned to invite the opposition for another round of talks in the coming days.
The 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was formed in September last year with the objective to force the government to hold early elections.
The PDM held several big rallies last year and has also said that its lawmakers will resign and make Parliament dysfunctional if Prime Minister Imran Khan government does not resign by January 31. However, Prime Minister Khan rejected the PDM's call to step down or call snap polls.
Khan, the former cricket captain of Pakistan, came to power in 2018 by winning the general election but the PDM alleged that the election was rigged by the establishment to ensure his victory.