ISLAMABAD: The chief negotiators from the government and the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) hoped on Friday that both sides would soon meet on the negotiating table, but were sceptical about the outcome of such an exercise.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who led the government side before talks with the PTI were stalled following violence against protesters on Constitution Avenue on Aug 30, said, “The prime minister will return to the country on Sunday morning and talks can restart from Sunday evening.”
The PM’s right-hand man also signalled that the party should not expect too much from this round of talks. He also called upon Imran Khan to fully empower his team before sending them in for negotiations so that meaningful dialogue could be held between the two sides.
Dar calls upon Imran to empower negotiators; jirga hopes dialogue will begin next week
But PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that he saw a lack of clarity and divisions in the government’s response.
“I see a clear division within the government ranks over the issue of talks. There are some in the ruling party who genuinely believe talks are the only way forwards, but there is also a hawkish element which argues ‘Ignore them (PTI leadership) and the movement will fizzle out’,” Mr Qureshi told reporters at the National Press Club.
Meanwhile, the opposition jirga trying to mediate between the two sides expressed hope that talks would restart some time next week. Senator Rehman Malik told Dawn that Mr Khan was ready to talk and that “Dialogue would begin by Dec 7 or Dec 8”.
Speaking at a seminar held to mark World Competition Day, Mr Dar said that the government was hopeful of resolving the ongoing political standoff. “The talks would remain within the rules and ambit of law,” he said, adding, “We want to end the crisis through talks as this dharna and jalsa culture has had a serious impact on the national economy”.
Mr Dar said if the government had set up the special judicial commission through a presidential ordinance, there were chances courts might have “struck it down”.
But lately, government ministers have repeatedly clarified that under Article 225, PTI could only pursue its petitions against rigging in various constituencies through election tribunals and the proposed judicial commission would only adjudicate on whether the PML-N was involved in rigging.
On August 13, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invoked the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1956, when he proposed a three-member judicial commission to investigate PTI’s allegations against former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, former Punjab caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi and officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that allegedly helped PML-N emerge victorious in the last elections.
If the government is serious about these talks, Mr Qureshi said, “We hope the next round of talks will start where we left off.”
He said that everybody knew that the condition of the PM’s resignation was a major stumbling block, but that had been removed now.
During their nearly 20 meetings, the PTI leadership claims the government was willing to give the new judicial commission special powers, but was now backing off on this front.
Mr Qureshi blamed an incumbent minister and others, who were hopeful of joining the federal government, as being against the talks, adding that PTI had yet to receive a formal message for the resumption of dialogue.
Stressing that he was hopeful about the future of talks between both sides, Senator Rehman Malik told Dawn, “We believe that both sides will resume dialogue after the return of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”
Mr Malik hailed Mr Dar’s statement and said that the minister had expressed a willingness to resolve the issue through negotiations.
He said that when Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq met Mr Khan at his residence in Bani Gala on Wednesday, the latter was willing to resume the halted dialogue process, and now the government had reciprocated positively.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2014