ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed has advised the opposition leaders to enter into dialogue with the government to steer the country out of the political impasse.

“It is in the interest of opposition leaders to hold dialogue with … the government. If you don’t hold dialogue with the prime minister, the narrative of [PML-N supremo] Nawaz Sharif will be buried,” Mr Rashid said at a news conference here on Wednesday.

He said politics created its path itself and after all political leaders had to enter into dialogue. “Approaching a closed tunnel is not a wise step; it can lead to a disastrously dangerous situation,” he warned.

Replying to a question, the minister said that they were ready to hold talks with the establishment but this negated the stance of the PML-N supreme leader.

Says PML-N’s readiness to negotiate with establishment negates Nawaz’s stance

Mr Rashid said that the narrative of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz had been helping [Prime Minister] Imran Khan to complete his five-year tenure in government.

Mr Rashid, who had also been a railways minister in the cabinet of retired Gen Pervaiz Musharraf, said that when Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were drafting the Charter of Democracy, Ms Bhutto was negotiating with Gen Musharraf. “Politicians never close doors for dialogue, irrespective of what they utter publicly,” he said.

Maryam Nawaz, he said, had herself disclosed that the establishment had not yet contacted her directly, but had approached PML-N leaders close to her.

“If free and fair elections in Gilgit-Baltistan are not acceptable, then the government would have to think what to do,” he said.

About the GB elections, Mr Rashid said that he had advised the opposition leaders to “go slow, wait and see”. “The clash with institutions has buried their politics. However, the PPP fared better and Asif Zardari played his cards wisely.”

He said that if the PPP and PML-N leaderships had a little sense, they could have formed an alliance before [the GB] elections, and then the results would have been different. “They can do so even today as elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir are due next year and the PTI is in full gear to prepare for the polls,” he said. “Next year, you both [PPP and PML-N] will raise hue and cry that the PTI has formed government in AJK.”

Mr Rashid was confident that the PTI would form government in GB with two-thirds majority later this month following the election of speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

He said the GB elections were the freest and fairest polls in the history of Pakistan, and the chief election commissioner had offered to open any constituency for recounting of votes.

About the Karachi Circular Railway, the minister said that the service would resume on Thursday (today) after a lapse of 21 years.

Under the first phase, a 46km track is being activated between Pipri Marshal Yard and Karachi city with 13 stopovers — Karachi city, Cantt station, Departure Yard, Drigh Road, Airport Road, Malir Halt, Malir, Landhi, Jumma Goth, Bin Qasim, Badal Nala and Pipri.

For the next phase, a 14km track is ready and will be operational by the end of December after renovation of level crossings and stations.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2020

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