ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Pervez Rashid has urged the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to end its ongoing protest before proceeding for talks with the government.
“Protests and talks cannot go together,” he said while addressing a meeting of the Federal Executive Council of a faction of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists on Saturday.
The minister asked the PTI leadership to take steps for making the “atmosphere conducive to resumption of dialogue”.
PTI leader Dr Arif Alvi, who remained a member of the party’s negotiating team, expressed surprise over the minister’s call, saying: “The atmosphere has been conducive to talks for past many months as there has been no violence or any unconstitutional act committed by the PTI.”
Talking to Dawn, he said the PTI had been holding peaceful sit-ins and public meetings at various places in the country and the protests could not be called off at any cost. On the other hand, he alleged, the government had used force against PTI workers and put them behind bars. Yet, he said, PTI was “peacefully waiting” for the resumption of talks.
Also read: PM assigns Ishaq Dar to negotiate with PTI
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who led the government’s negotiating team before talks with the PTI collapsed in September, has already said that dialogue could resume soon after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country from the UK.
Despite public pronouncements of their willingness to resume talks, both sides have been accusing each other of putting hurdles in the way of dialogue.
A source in the PML-N told Dawn that the prime minister was expected to have a consultative meeting with his close aides in a day or two to discuss the agenda for talks with the PTI.
Meanwhile, hitting out hard at the PTI chief for his alleged failure to present proof of rigging in a Lahore constituency before an election tribunal earlier in the day, the information minister said Mr Khan had been against exposed before the nation.
Mr Rashid was also critical of the media which, he said, gave `undue’ coverage to the PTI’s sit-in. “The PTI represents only nine per cent of the National Assembly, and not even parliament, since it has no representation in the Senate. But the PTI’s protest at D-Chowk was given huge coverage,” he said. He was of the opinion that TV broadcast of the protest sit-in had sent a wrong message to the international community and scared foreign investors.
The minister said the PTI’s protest had been ignored by lawyers, traders, students and other members of civil society. Similarly, he said, no political party was standing with the PTI, “which has no role in the struggle for the restoration of democracy and fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan”.
“Instead, at a time when political workers were facing jails and lashes for raising voice against the dictatorship, Imran Khan was entertaining the people by playing cricket,” he said.
The minister said he remembered how Mr Khan preferred playing cricket for money instead of Pakistan when Kerry Packer, a media tycoon from Australia, invited him to play a series in which a number of top players from around the world participated at the expense of their national sides in the 1980s.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2014