Following the recent bomb blast in Peshawar, which killed over 100 people and injured dozens of others, the government has once again called for an All Parties Conference (APC), which has already been postponed twice. The APC was supposed to happen on February 7 and then on February 9, but a new date for the same has not been confirmed as yet. However, would it have been preferable if this issue had been debated in the Parliament? This week, Bol News asks four leading experts whether the government has undermined the parliament by convening an APC on terrorism?
Dr Huma Baqai
Well, the All Parties Conference (APC) has always been a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz thing. Historically, the maximum numbers of APCs were called by the PML-N. But at this moment in time, all the parties are on one side, and the one party from which consensus is required is not in the parliament.
So holding a parliamentary session becomes totally irrelevant. Also, the two assemblies are dissolved, so currently, APC seems like a middle-ground option. However, now what we are hearing from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is that they have not been invited properly.
And I think that is a huge blunder that is being made by the sitting government. If they want the APC to be successful, then they need to ensure that the PTI attends it. Allowing the PTI to get away with this flimsy excuse that they have not been invited properly is a flawed strategy because if they have been invited properly and the PTI does not attend, then the onus will be on Imran Khan for not participating in something that is of national importance and critical to Pakistan.
But if they do not participate in the APC, then the APC is pointless because all the other parties are participating in it. Calling an APC has always been a strategy of Nawaz Sharif. For the time being, given the political situation and polarisation, the APC is the only way forward, because to whom will they speak in parliament? Moreover, it is also a complete acknowledgement of the fact that the PTI is a very important stakeholder in any debate in Pakistan.
If they fail to convince PTI to attend the APC, then it will be a collapse and a failure, which by default establishes the importance of PTI as a political party. Whether APC will bring any productive and positive change is extremely debatable.
Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi
The All Parties Conference (APC) has been a common practice in Pakistan, and it has been conducted before as well. APC is not happening for the first time, and these are not seen as a substitute for the parliament; they are an addition to the parliament. Hence, the APC has never been seen as a threat to the parliament.
The parliament has its own role, whereas the APC is like a mela where people come and speak on any issue. The parliament has nothing to do with it. Although the APC is being postponed again and again because they take decisions before planning anything. First they postponed it because of Imran Khan, then they decided to go to Turkey. Now they will give another date for the APC.
It’s all because of poor planning. They have not sent a formal invitation to Imran Khan, so we do not know whether Khan will join the APC or not. You cannot cooperate in one area and then engage in fighting in other areas of politics.
As a result, they must create a favourable environment for the opposition to arrive. In an environment where cases are being filed and people are being accused, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf will not attend the APC. Secondly, to counter terrorism, the government and law enforcement agencies will have to take the necessary decisions.
The opposition does not count in such decision-making. Moreover, I do not think that the APC will bring any positive and productive changes because the past experience says that the APCs are forums where people talk theoretically and then nothing happens.
So it is an exercise that has never produced solid results. Whether we hold the APC or not, it is the government’s and security agencies’ decision to deal with terrorism.
Former senator and federal minister
Not necessarily, but where there is a virtual mockery of democracy and nearly 125 members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are not represented in the national assembly, calling an All Parties Conference (APC) is one way the PTI’s voice is also heard.
It does not mean that they have undermined the parliament; it is about creating a parallel system to enable those who are, firstly, not represented in the parliament and, secondly, unrestricted by the procedures of the parliament, to be able to contribute and participate in the discussion.
Thirdly, those who have been endemically critical of the government and are not participating in the assembly for now in the Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be able to express themselves. Hence, I think it is a supplementary and complementary process.
Since there are no two provincial assemblies, there is a big vacuum, so an APC will at least fill that vacuum. Although it is very premature to say whether the APC will bring any positive and productive change until the event actually takes place, let us see what comes out of it. Sometimes, parties have been capable of creating a consensus, so let’s give it a chance and not be cynical and judgmental before even that takes place. However, if PTI does not attend the APC, it will have a very negative impact.
All the segments of the public opinion will not be represented; a major part of the public opinion that supports the PTI will not be represented if the PTI stays away from the APC.
Regardless of this APC, the parties in the assembly do not share all shades of their opinions; they represent only a small part of what they think, and half of the voters do not even bother to vote, so you can say that each of them only represents 5-10 percent of public opinion, so APC is a better option to express one’s perceptions.
I do not think that they have undermined the conference by calling an All Parties Conference (APC). Yes, similar important issues can be discussed in the parliament as well, but they want to show unity to the people where there is actually no unity.
I think signing the charter of democracy will undermine the parliament. Why are they even conducting an APC? Every meeting is held because of an agenda. There is an agenda behind every meeting. The APC is not being conducted because of the attack in Peshawar.
The army and the national security agencies have stated that we are going to eliminate terrorism in the country, and if the APC gets together, they are going to say the same thing. What else are they going to say? Will they say that we support terrorism? I do not see what the purpose of this APC? The APC will have zero impact on terrorism.
Moreover, whether the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) attends the APC or not, it will have zero impact.
It has nothing to do with PTI being there or not. Why has the coalition government not invited the PTI? Are they waiting for the PTI to announce that they are against terrorism? The PML-N government should have invited the PTI properly. You do not invite people to a conference via the press.
They should have sent a proper invitation to Imran Khan.
The PTI has stated that they have not received any invitation. So if they have not received an invitation, why should they barge in? Moreover, I fail to understand what the reason is for conducting an APC.