ISLAMABAD: Another round of talks between the government and the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was held in the capital on Sunday. While both sides claimed that “progress had been made”, they admitted that there were still certain “core issues” that needed to be resolved.
During a brief conversation with reporters following the three-hour meeting — held at the residence of PTI secretary general Jehangir Tareen — PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi declared that “meaningful dialogue has begun” and that both sides were making “serious efforts to rescue the nation from the prevailing impasse”.
This was the first time the PTI expressed such positive sentiments about the fate of the talks. On nearly all previous occasions, its negotiators accused the government of stonewalling or being non-serious about the negotiations.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who leads the government panel, told reporters that the two sides would meet again on Monday to sort out remaining issues. When asked what those issues were, he told mediapersons to be patient and wait till Monday.
Party responds to government reply
When a reporter asked him how successful the talks had been, Mr Qureshi said that there was no way to quantify the success of the talks in percentage.
“Talks are continuing with seriousness and now meaningful dialogue is taking place,” he said.
Mr Dar said the government was making efforts to end the political crisis as the country had been suffering economic losses due to the crippling protests. “We want to see the end of this crisis so that the country’s economy can be brought back to its path,” he added.
The two leaders deftly evaded questions regarding stumbling blocks in the dialogue process, instead expressing grief over the loss of life in recent rains in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Mr Qureshi outlined the steps taken by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to provide relief to the rain-hit areas of the province, while Mr Dar pointed out the efforts made by the federal and provincial governments to mitigate the sufferings of the rain-affected people of Punjab.
The two men also shared a light moment, with Mr Dar praying, “May Imran Khan end the sit-in to go help the flood-affected population.” Mr Qureshi quickly responded with a prayer of his own, saying, “May Allah soften Dar Sahib’s heart towards the participants of the sit-ins.”
Mr Qureshi also said the PTI had handed over another document in response to the government’s reply to the party’s proposals.
The PTI side was represented by Mr Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen and the government team consisted of Mr Dar and Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid. PTI MNA from Karachi Arif Alvi and KP Chief Minister Khattak also attended the meeting to assist their party leaders. A lawyer from the PTI was also present in the meeting to provide legal opinion on the issues being discussed.
Mr Alvi later told Dawn that “sticking points”, including the main issue of the prime minister’s resignation, had still not been settled. He was not particularly hopeful that the talks would end on Monday, saying he expected them to continue for another few days.
It was on the PTI’s request that the talks had been put off for a day on Saturday, as the party sought more time to review the government’s written response to the proposals it had submitted.
Political experts believe that following the cancellation of the Chinese president’s visit, the government now has more time to deal with both protesting parties.
The focus of the negotiators was reportedly on the preparation of the terms of reference (ToRs) and legal implications of the findings of the proposed judicial commission, to be formed to investigate charges of rigging in last year’s general elections.
Earlier in the day, Mr Khan also chaired a meeting of his party’s MPAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the KP House to discuss the prevailing situation. The meeting was also attended by some members of allied parties.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014