- Dar says govt ready to resume talks now that Imran Khan has dropped his demand for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation
- Finance minister says PTI should cease protest campaign in wake of govt’s talks offer
- Imran Khan welcomes resumption of talks, says govt should form judicial commission before Dec 12 and he will stop protests in cities
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government on Wednesday formally announced it was ready to hold unconditional talks with the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan after the party backed down from its core demand of resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The government’s offer to resume dialogue with the PTI was welcomed by Imran Khan, who said that the government should form the judicial commission to probe alleged rigging in last year’s elections before the party’s shutdown protest in Karachi on Dec 12.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday evening, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that the government had decided to hold negotiations with the PTI after the latter showed its willingness to hold unconditional talks to resolve the political impasse. However he said the party should call off its protest campaign now that the government was ready to resume talks with it.
“The government has decided to reciprocate PTI’s offer to resume negotiations. We will take up the dialogue from where it was broken and all futuristic demands of the PTI will be discussed with sincerity,” Dar said, adding that negotiations would be held within the law and constitution.
The finance minister said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N leadership had tasked him and Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal to hold talks with the PTI’s nominated committee and dialogue could resume as soon as Thursday (today). He said that the government had been in contact with the PTI leadership even during the latter’s protest campaign as it seriously wanted to resolve the crisis.
“We have always kept our doors open to dialogue with PTI and had requested the party not to hold its Nov 30 event in Islamabad if it wanted to hold meaningful talks with us but they went ahead with their program, resulting in breakdown of the talks initiative. However, we welcome Imran Khan’s decision to step back from his demands for the PM’s resignation and will make all efforts to allay PTI’s concerns regarding the alleged rigging in last year’s elections and work with them for electoral reforms for which a committee has already been formed,” he said.
Dar said the government had already made it clear that the proposed judicial commission would not include officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI), adding that it would be at the commission’s discretion to utilise services of these secret agencies if it deemed necessary.
PTI WELCOMES TALKS:
Commenting on the government’s decision, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said the party would stop its protect campaign in cities if the government announced the judicial commission before Dec 12.
“We will cancel our protests scheduled in Karachi and other cities if the government forms the commission before Dec 12. The protest sit-in in Islamabad will however continue until the commission comes up with its report on election rigging, he said, adding that the negotiation should resume from where they were abandoned.
Central Information Secretary Shireen Mazari said the party welcomed the resumption of negotiations but it would not cease its protest campaign until the formation of the judicial commission. “The government should resume talks from where they were dropped,” she added.
Meanwhile, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government should first prepare the terms of reference (TORs) for holding the negotiations, adding that the PTI team for talks would be announced after consultation among the party leadership.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif assigned Finance Minister Dar to resume dialogue with the PTI.
The decision was taken at a high-level advisory meeting held at the PM House, which was attended by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, SAFRON Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif among others.
The meeting was held to discuss the political situation amid protests and shut down calls by the PTI.
It was decided that the PTI would be asked to call off their ‘Plan C’ to shut down cities and subsequently the country in coming weeks.
After the meeting, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that the government was willing to resume dialogue with PTI but for that Imran Khan would have to return to his container and call off his party’s protests in different parts of the country.
Rashid told reporters that the dialogue was discontinued by the PTI chief therefore he should abandon his plan of closing different cities and come on the previous stage to provide conducive environment for dialogue.