Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday said he was willing to talk with political rival PTI for the “sake of national interest”.
Addressing the launch ceremony of “Youth Development Initiatives” in Islamabad, the prime minister said: “You didn’t shake [my] hand for four years and now you’re saying to ‘come to talk with us’? Till when will this two-facedness continue? But, we will be ready for it for the sake of national interest.”
Declining to give any details, the prime minister said he was ready to give “any sacrifice” for keeping the national interest as the primary concern.
Since his ouster, former prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan has at various points expressed willingness to hold a dialogue with the incumbent government if it was ready to hold fresh elections.
Recently, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that negotiations were being held with the government over the issue of elections. “President Sahib is holding the talks,” he said while replying to a question that at what level talks were being held between the two sides.
It has already been reported in the media that President Arif Alvi was making backchannel efforts to defuse the current political tension.
Chaudhry added that the PTI was ready to hold a formal dialogue with the government if it agreed to hold snap elections. “If they (government) are willing to hold early elections, we can sit with them,” he had said.
However, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Sunday said the government would not accept any pre-condition for going into talks with the PTI. He had said the government would not budge from any pressure and would hold talks only without any pre-conditions, though the next general election may be on the agenda of the talks.
PM announces internships for engineers, scholarships for top universities
As part of the “Youth Development Initiatives”, the prime minister said the government would provide 20,000 internships to young engineers and 75 scholarships to students for top universities.
He said the Ministry of Planning and Development would carry out the youth initiatives, including spending Rs40 billion in 20 of the most underdeveloped districts and building 250 mini sports complexes.
PM Shehbaz said the programme would be expanded further and more youth initiatives would be launched.
The prime minister said it was “unfortunate” that billions of dollars were wasted by delaying the construction of projects such as the Neelum Jhelum hydro project and the Reko Diq mining project.
He stressed that resources should be spent on equipping the youth with high-quality education, instead of “creating divisions and sowing seeds of hate among youth”.
He assured that more funds would be allocated for the education sector and for equipping students with the latest skills.