ISLAMABAD: Represen­tatives of the government and the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) finally met face to face on Thursday, breaking the deadlock that had persisted ever since the two sides discontinued talks in September.

Under the glare of TV cameras, PTI legislator Asad Umar met Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal at the latter’s residence for what is believed to be a preliminary session before the formal resumption of negotiations.

In the talks, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will be leading the government side which will include Mr Iqbal, while PTI will be represented by Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Mr Umar.

Also read: Ahsan Iqbal requests PTI to attend electoral reforms committee meetings

Sources in the PTI told Dawn that Thursday’s meeting was meant for both sides to reacquaint themselves with each other’s latest stance on key issues and set the parameters for future discussions in a bid to make the dialogue result-oriented.

Both sides likely to meet formally tomorrow

“[The two leaders] met to exchange points of view on the issue of the proposed judicial commission and its terms of reference (TORs),” a source said.

Speaking to Dawn shortly after the meeting, Mr Umar said that this was a “warm-up session” before the talks formally go under way from Saturday. “We had a detailed discussion on our points of view in a very cordial atmosphere.”

He said that though Mr Qureshi, who will be leading the PTI’s team of negotiators, was busy with party matters in Lahore, “[The PTI] preferred to meet the government today as the whole nation is eager to see both sides back on the negotiation table.”

He said the government had agreed that talks between the two sides would pick up where they left off.

But Senator Rehman Malik, who is a member of the opposition jirga that has been trying to negotiate a settlement between the two sides, was not so optimistic, saying that talks may stall over the PTI demand for the promulgation of an ordinance to make the judicial commission’s findings binding for the government.

He demanded that the PTI call off its scheduled demonstration in Karachi on Friday. “Following the resumption of talks, there is no reason for the PTI to be staging a demonstration in the country’s commercial hub,” he said.

But PTI chairman Imran Khan said that his party would press ahead with their planned shutdown of Karachi on Friday.

Talking to Dawn on Thursday, Mr Umar said that the party’s Karachi demonstration would not be like traditional strikes in the city that hurt the people and economy, but would be a peaceful one.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2014