Amid unrest, Shehbaz offers to parley with Imran

Published March 16, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses a delegation of journalists in Islamabad. — DawnNews screenshot
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses a delegation of journalists in Islamabad. — DawnNews screenshot

ISLAMABAD: Extending an olive branch to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan again, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday emphasised that all political forces will have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises.

He said the government would hold the general election on its scheduled time as per the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The prime minister said that the threat of Pakistan defaulting on its debt was now over as the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be finalised soon.

“All political forces will have to sit together to take the country forward,” the premier said while addressing a meeting held with a delegation of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) at the PM House.

Rules out snap elections, says threat of default ‘now over’

PM Shehbaz lamented that he had invited PTI for talks on two occasions in the recent past, but the party did not turn up.

“Though politicians always resort to dialogue, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has a history of not responding positively in this regard,” he noted.

The prime minister said the country was facing serious political and economic challenges but stressed that all component parties of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) ruling coalition had contributed positively to improving the situation.

He regretted that PTI did not even attend the apex committee meeting held in Peshawar in the wake of the suicide attack inside a mosque in the Police Lines.

The meeting, on Wednesday, held an in-depth discussion on the overall situation in the country in areas of politics, economy, foreign affairs and security.

Talking about the general election in the country, the PM said: “No one should have any doubt in this regard. We will wholeheartedly participate in the election and follow whatever decided by the ECP.”

He said it was for the ECP to take a decision in this respect. However, he added, as president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, he had directed his party to finalise names of aspiring candidates.

He said the government was cognisant of the fact that timely elections led to a stronger state and its progress.

During the 11 months since it took over, he said, the government had successfully overcome the shadows of default.

He regretted that the previous government stepped back from the agreement inked with IMF, adding that it was not a private but a state deal non-implementation of which resulted in a big loss to the country.

He expressed the confidence that the staff-level agreement with IMF would be struck soon.

Shehbaz Sharif recalled that friendly countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and China, had extended support to Pakistan in trying times.

The prime minister slammed former prime minister Imran Khan for his “naked defiance” of court orders and making fun of the state institutions by his no-show in courts.

“For the first time in Pakistan, a so-called political person is considering himself above the law … non-appearance in courts is tantamount to violation of law,” he said.

He mentioned that PML-N leaders were implicated in fake cases by the previous government, but they still appeared before the courts.

“The government is not taking the action on its own, but it’s acting on the court orders,” he said in reference to the police action with regards to Imran Khan’s arrest warrants.

On the Toshakhana case, he said that Imran Khan, who called himself an ‘honest person’, was in fact a liar, who even sold a wristwatch with the model of Holy Ka’aba.

Later, Prime Minister Sharif met Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and discussed the census going on in the province, especially Karachi. Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party Chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai also called on the prime minister and discussed the political situation in the country.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2023

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