ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Monday called off talks with the government following deadly clashes in Faisalabad ahead of Imran Khan's call for a 'shutdown' of the city.
“Talks cannot continue in the current environment. The government has no right to stop peaceful demonstrations,” said PTI leader Arif Alvi.
At least one PTI activist was killed as violent clashes erupted between PTI and workers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The PTI says it will observe a countrywide day of mourning on Tuesday in protest of the killing of its worker.
Alvi said the PTI chairman had instructed party workers to be peaceful, but the situation worsened after protesters were stopped from carrying out demonstrations.
“(Information Minister) Pervaiz Rashid is leveling baseless allegations against the PTI. Imran Khan told workers to be peaceful but the situation eventually deteriorated,” said Alvi.
The opposition PTI has been leading months of anti-government protests against alleged rigging in the May 2013 general elections.
Khan had promised that the strike in Faisalabad would be the first of a series to target major cities in Pakistan after leading a months-long demonstration in Islamabad that shut down the city and sparked clashes.
Earlier this month, the government had decided to resume dialogue with the PTI, which had been stalled since deadly violence in Islamabad after police clashed with PTI protesters during the party’s ‘Azadi March’ in August.
Last week, chief negotiators from the government and the protesting PTI had hoped that both sides would soon meet on the negotiating table, but were sceptical about the outcome of such an exercise.
On Saturday, Information Minister Pervez Rashid urged the PTI to end its ongoing protest before proceeding for talks with the government, calling on the PTI leadership to take steps for an “atmosphere conducive to resumption of dialogue”.
However, the prospects of a negotiated settlement to the long-running political crisis appeared bleak yet again following the deadly violence in Faisalabad on Monday.
“How can we hold talks when our bodies are being downed by the government,” said PTI leader Arif Alvi.
“It is difficult to hold and sustain talks in such a scenario,” he said.