Parties scramble to defuse govt-PTI tension

Published August 7, 2014
Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Sirajul Haq and Khursheed Shah. — File photo
Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Sirajul Haq and Khursheed Shah. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A day after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) revealed that it would not settle for anything less than the prime minister’s resignation and a re-election, leaders from across the political spectrum scrambled on Wednesday to try to defuse political tensions that have come to head over the past few days.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq had a busy day, separately meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Ahmed Shah and PTI chief Imran Khan. “The main purpose of our meeting today is to ensure that we have a peaceful Independence Day,” he told reporters after meeting Mr Khan at his Bani Gala residence in the capital.

The PPP also got into the act, as its Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari telephoned Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, while Khursheed Shah met former coalition partner and Awami National Party head Asfandyar Wali to discuss the prevailing political situation.

JI chief meets PM, opposition leader and Imran; Zardari phones Qadri and Khursheed Shah meets Asfandyar

The JI is a PTI coalition partner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but it has yet to announce support for Imran Khan’s party in its ‘Azadi March’. After meeting Mr Khan, Sirajul Haq said his party had also raised the issue of electoral rigging and supported the PTI demands for a reformed Election Commission.

“As far as our participation in the Independence Day demonstration is concerned, we will take a decision after August 10 – the day our party will hold a Gaza march in the capital to condemn Israel,” he said.

However, the JI chief said, there was still time until August 14 and that he, along with other political leaders, was trying to find some middle ground between the PML-N and the PTI. “In politics, there is always a solution,” he added.

A PTI statement issued after the meeting claimed that the JI emir fully supported the party’s demands, adding that “PTI will wait for JI in the long march”.

After his meeting with Prime Minister Sharif, the JI emir told reporters: “I have briefed the prime minister on my meeting with the PTI chief and shared with him a possible way out of this crisis.”

But he evaded questions on whether this party supported the PTI’s call for re-elections, saying only that, “Political parties always have demands and it is the responsibility of the government of the day to respond to them. In the ongoing crisis, this task falls to the prime minister.”

In an official statement issued after the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office highlighted the importance of dialogue between political parties and stressed the need for democracy in the country. “The solution to all of Pakistan’s ills lies in dialogue and democracy,” it said.

PPP MEDIATION: On the PAT front, former president Asif Zardari called Dr Tahirul Qadri from London on Wednesday. The PPP co-chairperson condemned the registration of a case against him by Lahore police, but stressed that democracy should not be derailed by any movement against the government.

PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar quoted Mr Zardari as saying, “Our party has never supported political victimisation and it will not allow anyone to victimise political opponents, or permit the registration of cases against political leaders.”

According to Mr Babar, both leaders agreed that democracy should be allowed to continue for the ‘betterment of the nation’.

“The phone call was part of a consultative process initiated by the party to ward off threats to democracy,” he said.

Over the past three days, Mr Zardari has spoken to Imran Khan, PML-Q head Chaudhry Shujaat and ANP leader Asfandyar Wali. The prime minister is also said to have phoned Mr Zardari late on Tuesday night.

Separately on Wednesday, Khursheed Shah also met the JI and ANP chiefs to discuss the prevailing political impasse.

A source close to Mr Shah quoted him as saying that one should not go to an extent that would put democracy in danger.

Talking to Dawn, former PPP information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who accompanied Mr Shah in these meetings, said they primarily intended to mediate between the government and PTI to end their confrontation.

“We believe PTI’s genuine demands and the government’s stance should be honoured for the sake of improving the democratic system, not derailing it,” he said, adding that PPP leaders would try to meet the PTI chief and PML-N leaders on Thursday or Friday in an effort to bridge the divide between the two parties, he said.

Political insiders believe that energetic efforts from parties on both sides of the aisle will help defuse the tensions that exist between the PTI and the PML-N.

“Except for re-elections, the government is willing to negotiate with the PTI on all its other demands, such as the reconstitution of the Election Commission and changes to the criteria for selecting caretaker governments,” a senior government functionary told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2014



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