ISLAMABAD: While Imran Khan continues his posturing, other leaders of the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are still hoping for resumption of meaningful talks with the government to address the party’s concerns regarding electoral rigging.
Briefing mediapersons on Tuesday, PTI leaders said they wanted an honestly negotiated end to the current political impasse, but the government, instead of taking confidence-building measures, had resorted to a brutal crackdown against their workers.
The last time the two sides met was on Sept 8. The PTI called off talks on Sept 12 in response to police action against their party workers.
PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen, accompanied by Shafqat Mehmood, Dr Arif Alvi and Asad Umar, held separate, back-to-back briefings with journalists from electronic and print media and apprised them of the status of talks between the two sides and the party’s future course of action. The briefings were held at Mr Tareen’s residence.
Party leaders say PM’s resignation hasn’t been discussed in 14 meetings
“We never closed our doors to talks, but the government, instead of improving the atmosphere for negotiations, launched a crackdown on PTI workers,” Mr Tareen told the media. On the status of the talks, the PTI general secretary said that the government had agreed to constitute a special judicial commission to investigate the elections through an ordinance, but was unwilling to accept “our definition of rigging”. In addition, he said, the government had refused to open new constituencies for investigation.
The government, on its part, insists that the focus of the investigation through the proposed commission must be restricted to the allegations which the PTI had levelled against former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and caretaker Punjab chief minister Najam Sethi for their alleged role in rigging the elections in favour of the ruling party. The PTI is pushing for an audit of a certain number of constituencies, Mr Tareen explained.
“The two sides are yet to discuss the demand of the PM’s resignation, because we have only talked about setting up the commission and its terms of reference so far,” Mr Tareen said when asked what ground the two sides had covered in their 14 meetings to date.
“We are unable to understand the government’s reluctance to open 30 constituencies which will be an adequate sample to determine whether the last general elections were held in a free and fair manner or not,” said Dr Arif Alvi.
Shafqat Mehmood said state brutality was on display over the weekend as thousands of PTI workers were arrested and put behind bars, which clearly showed that the government wasn’t interested in talks. “As of now, 410 PTI workers are in Adiala Jail, while 230 are being sent to jails in Attock and Jhelum.” Worse still, arrested party workers have been deprived of their valuables such as cellphones, wrist watches and wallets.
Asked what they would do if the government stuck to its stance, all four retorted that the sit-in would continue.
“This is the first time in the country’s history that the people have stood against the forces of status quo. Backing off now is out of the question,” pronounced Mr Tareen, who has served as a PML-Functional lawmaker and cabinet minister in the regime former president Pervez Musharraf.
Responding to a flurry of questions about allegations being levelled by dissident leader Javed Hashmi, the journalists were told that the party had set in motion the process required to remove Mr Hashmi as president of the PTI.
Despite repeated attempts, none of the government’s negotiators were available for comment.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2014