This isn’t the time for complaints, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on opposition leaders Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Shehbaz Sharif’s walkout from a parliamentary briefing on Wednesday.
The PPP and PML-N heads symbolically walked out of the video meeting because Prime Minister Imran Khan didn’t listen to them. He called the video conference of cabinet members, parliamentary parties and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Wednesday to brief them on the situation.
During his speech, PM Khan called on political leaders to work with the government to overcome the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the country.
“A nation can fight coronavirus, not a government,” said PM Khan, giving the example of America, which has been plagued by endless debates and each state is doing something different. “It is the same here. There is no hard and fast solution in Pakistan, we must keep reassessing.”
He asked the leaders for their input, and said he hoped they could work together to win the “war” against coronavirus. But right after his speech, he signed off without hearing anyone else.
Shehbaz tweeted after the meeting that he was disappointed by the PM’s “intentional absence” from the meeting. “It seems he is still not ready to listen to the opposition and the whole country just saw the seriousness of its chief executive. I was left with no option but to walk out in protest,” Shehbaz wrote.
However, the foreign minister told SAMAA TV on its show Naya Din that this is not the time for nitpicking. We weren’t even sure that they would join the meeting until the last moment, he said, explaining that the PM had asked Speaker Qaiser to personally invite Shehbaz and Bilawal to the meeting but they hadn’t confirmed their attendance till very late.
There was a full briefing where the NDMA and Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza also spoke, said Qureshi, adding that it lasted for about three and a half hours. I even wrote down all their suggestions in a notebook, he said.
But Bilawal and Shehbaz walked out, not hearing what we had to say, he said “Did you come to speak to the prime minister or share your points of view with good intentions?” he asked, reiterating that this isn’t the time for nitpicking.
He urged the political leaders to open their hearts and overlook small grievances. Qureshi said he appealed to the parties to stay for the briefing and other leaders did, so their points have been summarised and will be presented during the National Coordination Committee meeting today (Thursday).
This is not the first meeting nor will it be the last, said the minister. If you get upset over small things, the environment of these meetings will not be in line with the spirit in which they were called, he said.
“Now is not the time for complaints, this is not time to put others down, this is the time to hold each others hands together and pool our resources, be it the private sector, provinces, Centre or the institutions.”
He also discussed the proposal that loans to developing countries be written off. He said this matter was discussed a few days ago and he had written to the foreign ministers of a few European countries with the proposal that they restructure the loans given to developing countries so that that they can use the interest to fight the coronavirus. The IMF and World Bank heads endorsed this and the UN secretary-general said we must think out of the box, said Qureshi.
The government is currently discussing whether Pakistan should present a resolution in the UN General Assembly on this matter.