Govt again offers dialogue to estranged PTM

Published June 15, 2020
Pervez Khattak says all contentious issues may be discussed. — AFP/File
Pervez Khattak says all contentious issues may be discussed. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Pervez Khattak on Sunday again invited leaders of the estranged Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), an organisation working for the rights of Pashtuns, to come to the negotiating table to discuss all the contentious issues with the government.

“We Pakhtoons belong to the same province thus we should collectively work for the development of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the minister said in a statement.

Mr Khattak said the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) had been merged in the province in order to bring the tribal people into the mainstream. He said people of those districts were lagging behind in terms of education, healthcare and basic communications infrastructure and added that it was the time to collectively work for their uplift rather than indulge in confrontation.

Mr Khattak, who had previously served as the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and who is considered to be a close confidant of Prime Minister Imran Khan, invited the PTM leadership to the negotiating table to “jot down issues of their concerns and discuss their resolution”.

The defence minister said the country was going through a tougher period wherein the masses were confronted by the global pandemic. The pandemic, he said, had not only brought devastation to the country’s economy but also to people’s lives.

Pervez Khattak says all contentious issues may be discussed

The minister said that political instability in the country, especially in the KP province, would lead to increase the miseries of people.

PTM leader and MNA Mohsin Dawar, in a tweet, said the group "welcome(s) the government's dialogue offer", adding that similar efforts had been made in the past but ended up in "failure".

"We welcome government's dialogue offer. PTM strongly believes that dialogue is the only way out & we are always open to it. But we are also aware of the failures of such efforts in the past. The need is for the government to be represented by those who have the power to implement agreements."

In September last year, after a heated debate on the floor of the National Assembly between Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, the PTM-backed independent members from the tribal areas, and federal ministers, the government had offered talks to the organisation, but with certain conditions.

The talks offer had been made by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Interior Minister retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah with the condition that the PTM members would only follow “Pakistan’s agenda” and would not target armed forces in their speeches.

“The army also wants to come out from there [Waziristan]. If your agenda is Pakistan, then I am ready to hold talks with you,” Mr Khattak had stated after the house had already witnessed a verbal brawl between Mr Dawar and Communications Minister Murad Saeed.

“However, if you continue to talk against the institution which has ensured security and peace in the country, then you will not be heard,” Mr Khattak had said in his brief speech before allowing Speaker Asad Qaiser to give the floor to the interior minister for making a policy statement.

Mr Khattak said the government had previously talked to the PTM and for almost one year, they had been asking the organisation to come to the negotiating table, but regretted that the offer was being ignored.

“Why don’t you talk? If your agenda is something else, then talks cannot be held,” the defence minister had concluded.

Mr Dawar and Mr Wazir, who had been arrested on charges of attacking a military check-post at Kharqamar in North Waziristan in May last year were attending the National Assembly sitting after four months after they were granted bail by the Peshawar High Court’s Bannu bench.

“If you want to become a mainstream party, then come up with your demands. Tell us and we will sit with the prime minister,” the interior minister had stated, recalling that it was Prime Minister Imran Khan who had declared that the demands of the PTM were legitimate.

“Raise the slogan of Pakistan and come with me we will do whatever you want,” the minister had said.

Speaking on a point of order, Mr Dawar had denied the charges that they were involved in any attack on the check-post and explained that they had visited the area after getting reports that the people were holding a protest against the security forces for carrying out a search operation and maltreating some of the women.

Last year in May, a PTM delegation headed by Manzoor Pashteen had appeared before a Senate special committee headed by Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif.

After the meeting, Mr Saif had said the PTM issue was “political” in nature and its solution lay in dialogue.

This was the first interaction between the PTM and the parliamentarians after the May 26, 2019 incident, at the Kharqamar check-post in North Waziristan in which three people were killed and 10 others were injured.

The PTM chief had demanded formation of an “independent commission or committee” to hold an investigation into the Waziristan incident to know the facts. He had said the affairs in the area should be run through the civil administration in order to provide relief to people.

Despite repeated attempts, no one from the PTM could be contacted for comments on the latest offer by the government.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020

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