ISLAMABAD, Sept 5: “No formal talks with the PPP. That’s the principled stand of the PML-N,” Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and party stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said here on Wednesday. About the meetings going on between the two parties he said these were also in line with the party’s decision and held “only to listen to the PPP which has been pressing us”.

According to Chaudhry Nisar, the PML-N team headed by Senator Ishaq Dar was not authorised to take any decision on behalf of the party and its main task was only to report back to the leadership on what issues the ruling party wanted to discuss with the opposition. “The final decision on the outcome of any contact lies with the party alone,” said Chaudhry Nisar, who is regarded as a hardliner.

Chaudhry Nisar was talking to reporters outside the Parliament House after a scheduled meeting between the PPP and the PML-N was postponed for a second day because of non-availability of Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah who is heading the PPP team.

The PML-N leader claimed that his party allowed Mr Dar to listen to Khurshid Shah who had been contacting Mr Dar with a request for a meeting. He said it was after his refusal to meet the PPP that Mr Dar was assigned the task.He said the PML-N was not ready to hold talks with the government because of its past record of broken promises.

The PML-N has been publicly denying that it is in talks with the government, but privately its leaders confirm that the party is engaged in “serious and formal negotiations” with the PPP. The two parties have already held two rounds of talks.

The agenda, sources in the two parties said, comprised a caretaker government for holding general elections, formation of a national commission on new provinces and the controversial accountability law that had been hanging in the air for more than three years because of a standoff between the two parties on certain issues.

PPP ministers Syed Khurshid Shah and Syed Naveed Qamar were scheduled to visit the Punjab House for the third round of talks on Tuesday, but the meeting was postponed at the last moment when President Asif Ali Zardari called Khurshid Shah to Karachi where the party has been engaged in talks with the MQM on the issue of local bodies system in Sindh. The meeting rescheduled for Wednesday was put off again when Mr Shah could not make it to Islamabad.

When contacted, Ishaq Dar said that he was not in a position to say when the meeting would now take place, adding that it would be held soon.

Chaudhry Nisar reiterated that the PML-N was in favour of carving out two provinces – South Punjab and Bahawalpur – from Punjab in line with a resolution adopted by the Punjab assembly. He alleged that the PPP and its allies were playing politics on the sensitive issue of new provinces.

The PML-N, he said, wanted a national commission to discuss creation of new federating units all over the country and not only in Punjab. “We want a national commission and not a Zardari commission,” he said in an obvious reference to the recently-formed parliamentary commission by National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza in line with a letter written to her by President Zardari and after getting authorisation by the house.

Chaudhry Nisar said the commission was headed by a person who happened to be a media spokesman for President Zardari.

CARETAKER SET-UP: The PML-N leader said there was no need for talks with the government on the issue of caretaker set-up because that was not required under the Constitution. He said only the prime minister was required to consult the leader of opposition on the names for the caretaker prime minister and if they failed to agree on one name they would suggest two names each to a parliamentary committee having equal representation of the government and the opposition and if the deadlock continued the matter would be decided by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Chaudhry Nisar disclosed that he had already held consultations with Abdul Rauf Mengal, a Baloch nationalist leader living in exile in Dubai, chief of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf on nine names his party had short-listed to head a caretaker government.


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