ISLAMABAD: Hectic efforts by the six-member peace Jirga bore some fruit on Wednesday night but without “a major breakthrough”.
As a result of Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq and former interior minister Rehman Malik’s initiative on Tuesday night, the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) returned to the proverbial negotiating table.
The last time the two sides had met was on Saturday night when they both departed after some declarations of progress and hope – yet later that night PTI and PAT moved forward towards the Prime Minister House, provoking a bloody clash with the police which resulted in three deaths and numerous injuries to the protesters.
That had put an end to the talks between the two sides till Wednesday night when the two sides came face to face again at the residence of PTI’s secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen.
The government team was led by Senator Ishaq Dar.
After the huddle, the two sides refused to provide any fodder to the media apart from the promise of another meeting on Thursday.
As he left the venue, Asad Umar of PTI said that although there was no major development during the meeting, he hoped for good news on Thursday. Dr Arif Alvi also expressed similarly vague hopes before he too ran off.
The vague statements left the media outside uncertain and confused about the outcome.
Earlier in the day, the discussions between the PTI and the opposition ‘jirga’ proved to be more concrete.
The five-member peace Jirga led by the JI emir met the PTI’s negotiators at the residence of Senator Rehman Malik.
After the meeting, Mr Haq claimed that they had achieved 70 per cent success and that he was hopeful for the rest.
“The Jirga is holding the two sides [government and protesting leaders] and pushing them towards possible reconciliation.” However, he cautioned the government ministers from making incendiary remarks as these didn’t help those who were trying to defuse the situation.
His warning was echoed by Rehman Malik.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi thanked the members of the Jirga for listening to the PTI’s viewpoint, calling the meeting positive.
The jirga team included independent MNA from Fata G.G Jamal; JI General Secretary Liaquat Baloch and Senator Kalsoom Parveen of Balochistan National Party-Awami.
Providing an insight into what transpired at the meeting, a member of the jirga told Dawn that the PTI wanted written guarantees and not just verbal assurance from the PML-N.
In fact, the PTI was especially interested in some concrete commitment – preferably written – that if the proposed judicial commission found evidence of rigging in the 2013 election, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will resign.
It is noteworthy that even PML-N leaders have suggested this option in press talks when they explained that the deadlock was due to the PTI’s insistence on the prime minister’s resignation.
The jirga member said on the condition of anonymity that the committee members had suggested that the two sides should first thrash out the rest of the five points on which there is no deadlock.
This, he said, would help the talks progress rather than get stuck to the more controversial issue.
He also said that the committee had suggested that it – and parliamentary parties – “will step in to provide the necessary guarantee sought by the PTI. He added that the opposition parties were willing to be guarantors if the government and PTI could find some middle ground.
His account was partly confirmed by a PTI office-bearer who said that the party wanted a concrete commitment about the prime minister’s resignation in case a judicial commission found that the elections were not fair.
“That guarantee could be in the form of the prime minister’s written resignation submitted to the opposition parties, for instance.” He said the commitment was sought to ensure that the ruling party did not make promises at present and then backtracked.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2014