Finance Minister Ishaq Dar meets President Dr Arif Alvi at the Presidency on Wednesday.—APP
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar meets President Dr Arif Alvi at the Presidency on Wednesday.—APP

• President says dialogue only way to ease tension, acknowledges Dar’s ‘talent’ for reconciliation
• Says he would’ve advised Imran against leaving NA

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday met for the second time in 17 days in another attempt to bring the government and the PTI to the table and douse the political fire through dialogue.

While the meeting reflects the government’s intent to sit with the main opposition party to ease political tension, the administration is also said to be stuck to its stance that it would negotiate with the PTI if the talks were unconditional and without any pressure.

Mr Dar, believed to be the voice of PML-N’s self-exiled supremo Nawaz Sharif, called on President Alvi and briefed him on the country’s economic situation and the steps taken by the government to provide relief to the affected citizens.

According to the Presi­dency, several matters related to finance, the economy and the rehabilitation of flood victims were also discussed during the meeting.

Sources in the government said the PML-N-led administration had decided to slow down its efforts to move a no-confidence motion against Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi after PTI Chairman Imran Khan and the chief minister appeared reluctant to dissolve the provincial assembly.

Later on Wednesday, President Alvi said in an interview with ARY News that he gave Mr Dar some suggestions for holding formal talks between the government and the PTI. “Early elections were also discussed in the meeting,” he said.

“I am trying to bring both sides to the table. I have given him [Mr Dar] some suggestions and he will reply after consulting with his party leadership,” the president said, adding that leaders of both sides should avoid teasing each other to ensure a conducive atmosphere for talks.

The president said the country was passing through a tense political situation in which dialogue was the only way to ease tension.

Responding to a question about PTI’s resignation from the National Assembly in April this year, the president hinted it was an unwise decision, saying: “If I had been consulted, I would have advised Imran Khan not to go out of the assembly.”

President Alvi said he had been mediating between the government and the opposition for over three months and met the finance minister for the second time because Mr Dar had a “talent” for reconciliation, as he had shown during PTI’s months-long sit-in of 2014.

The two leaders also discussed the perceived threat of default. “Dr Sahib also told me that news about default in the media damages the country’s image. I suggested that both sides should also sit to hold talks how to improve the country’s economy and carry out energy conservation,” he added.

‘People’s mandate essential’

President Alvi said that if the PTI chief dissolved Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, early elections would become imminent as holding by-polls would be futile.

He said having a people’s mandate was essential for any political party and elections would be the only way political parties sell their narratives.

“If the PDM believes that it has taken a difficult decision by coming to power despite ample crisis, it will have a chance to convince people on this in electioneering,” he added.

The president believed that the ruling PDM also had lost an opportunity to win the public’s support by not agreeing to go for election when the PTI government was toppled through a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly in April.

New COAS ‘has better thinking’

On the appointment of Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Syed Asim Munir, the president said he found the new army chief a better one in terms of his thinking and hoped that he would play his role in reducing tension between the military and politicians.

“I also asked Ishaq Dar today that after the army has declared itself as neutral, the whole responsibility lies on civilians to benefit from it,” he added.

When contacted, a senior PML-N leader, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that the government wanted to sit with the PTI for talks provided they would be unconditional. “If Imran Khan presses for seeking exact date of early polls, this will be unacceptable for the government,” he said.

He said the government was ready to sit with PTI to discuss all national issues like electoral reforms, economy and others but not under any pressure and condition,” he added.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2022

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