Politics of talks


Reading the momentum

It should not have taken the Faisalabad incident to finally get the government to start talking to PTI. There is much truth in matching sentiments of Khurshid Shah and Siraj ul Haq, that the government mishandled the start of PTI’s Plan-C, implying it has weakened its own position. Indeed, last evening’s security meeting, where the prime minister green-lighted Ishaq Dar to initiate dialogue “immediately”, came ten days too late. But Dar sahib promised then too, when Nawaz was in London, that talks would begin “soon”. Yet the media war escalated, and then there was Faisalabad. Now, even the government’s supporters in its ‘struggle for democracy’ have blamed it for the stalemate, and the N league has to go to the talks with Imran refusing to halt Plan-C, even temporarily.

However, now that it has got to government’s attention, the PTI must also weigh its options very carefully. Imran has been inflexible throughout the confrontation, even to the irritation of some of his close aides. But now a number of things are going his way. It has forced the government to the table; that too without accepting any ‘conditions’. And there has been some relief from the election tribunal. The verification of NA-122 votes requires checking all votes cast through thumbprint impressions, and the relevant judge’s findings about evidence of rigging. Once, as Imran claims, proof starts flowing of irregularities he has been crying about, he can build more political pressure.

Also, with the momentum is shifting his way, it would be politically wise and mature to tone down on the street protests, which inevitably lead to a confrontation and, ultimately, bad news. And as in the case of Faisalabad, unfortunate deaths are also added to the mix of tragedies (of which economic losses are no small part). There is a need for both the government and PTI to ensure such episodes are not repeated. The government has been repeatedly criticised for not taking the lead on talks. But now that it has – however late – PTI must read the momentum correctly to extract maximum political mileage from the exchange. And it must call off its street protests, especially after Faisalabad.