LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said any solution to the ongoing political deadlock should be within the limits of the Constitution.
The two met for lunch at the premier's Raiwind residence as Zardari reached Lahore from Karachi. They discussed the ongoing political stalemate induced by the protests led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in the federal capital over a sumptuous lunch that included Zardari's favourite vegetarian dishes as well as the traditional biryani and qorma.
Zardari, who was invited by the prime minister for the lunch meeting, was flanked by senior PPP leaders Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahsan and Khursheed Shah, who is also the opposition leader in the National Assembly.
The premier was accompanied by Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister Saad Rafique and Safron Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch in the meeting.
Qadir Baloch replaced Pervez Rashid in the PML-N team that met the former president.
In a press conference of PML-N representatives held after a meeting of leaders from the two parties, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the prime minister and Zardari are in agreement that any step taken should be within constitutional parameters.
"Zardari has fully supported PM Nawaz...for the supremacy of Constitution and democracy,” he said.
He said the two discussed Pakistan’s overall economic direction which has been stalled due to the ongoing protests and maintained that the country's financial activities needed to resume. “Pakistan is experiencing financial losses because of this deadlock…the cancellation of trips by heads of state, postponement of the IMF review as well as the delay in finalising details for the Dasu project is happening due to this,” he said.
“This is why our party has shown flexibility,” Dar said. “All parties except PTI have agreed that they will hold the Constitution supreme,” he said
Dar also said that Nawaz has thanked Zardari for his support and added that representatives from different parties are welcome to discuss the matter with PTI but that any solution should be within constitutional limits. “There is no compromise on extra legal steps.”
When asked what the PPP leader had to say about Imran Khan’s demand that the premier resign, Dar responded by saying: “Zardari sahab is clear on this – there is no question of the prime minister’s resignation.”
At the press conference, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that Zardari had pledged at the meeting that his party will not support any extra-constitutional measures to resolve the crisis.
Elaborating on the former PPP chairman’s engagements on the matter, Asif said after the meeting, Zardari had gone to Mansoora to meet with the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leadership after which the PPP leader will meet with some Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) leaders.
Railways Minister Saad Rafique said today’s meeting was testament to the fact that both PML-N and PPP were committed to strengthening democracy.
Rafique said the present attack is not on the government but on the Constitution and the Parliament.
“We value the fact that Asif Zardari came over to discuss the matter...sense has prevailed...Imran Khan should learn from the political sagacity here,” he said.
Safron Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that as far as the PTI was concerned, the talks with them had entered a stage where the leadership of the two sides needed to make a call.
“At 4pm we were supposed to meet in Islamabad…but I had to be here…the rest of the negotiators must be meeting with the PTI leadership,” Qadir Baloch said.
Siraj meets with Zardari, vows to continue role as 'mediator'
After meeting with Asif Zardari at Mansoora in Lahore, JI Emir Sirajul Haq expressed hope that the prevailing political crisis would be resolved through dialogue.
Speaking to media representatives, he said the overall political situation of the country was thoroughly discussed at the hour-long meeting with Zardari. Haq vowed to continue extending his efforts for reconciliation among political forces of the country.
He urged the PTI leadership to reconsider their decision of tendering resignation from assemblies, adding that he has requested Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq not to accept the resignations submitted to him on Friday.
The JI emir expressed optimism that issues would be resolved soon. “For the first time political parties are on the same page in the greater national interest.”
The former president will be staying at the Bilawal House in Lahore where security arrangements have already been beefed up.
Zardari has been proactive in establishing contacts with almost all major political parties in the country. PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar had said that the purpose of Zardari’s phone calls to political leaders was to lay emphasis on protecting and promoting democracy and the Constitution and, at the same time, sending a clear message to the government to listen to the “voices of reason and logic and not overshoot the bullet”.