Embattled PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday struck a reconciliatory tone, saying he was ready to “talk to anyone” and “render any sacrifice” for the sake of the country’s “uplift, interest and democracy” as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif again called for unity to tackle the challenges Pakistan faces.
The remarks by the two leaders come a day after PM Shehbaz extended an olive branch to the PTI chief, emphasising that all political forces would have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises.
Imran, who has a number of cases against him, has been resisting arrest and is holed up inside his Zaman Park residence surrounded by thousands of supporters, who have fought “pitched battles” with the police and Rangers over the past few days.
“I will not refrain from any sacrifice for the sake of Pakistan’s uplift, interest and democracy,” Imran tweeted today. “In this regard, I am willing to talk to anyone and take every step towards it.”
“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Pakistan who joined us in the struggle for true freedom and to our workers from all over Pakistan, including Lahore,” he added in another tweet.
Shehbaz calls for unity
Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz called for national unity among the political leadership to address the country’s challenges. He made the remarks while speaking in the Senate during a session to mark its golden jubilee celebration.
In his speech, the premier said economic stability could not be achieved without political stability. He said that the coalition government had sacrificed their politics for the country’s sake by taking up the mantle during tough economic times.
He told the upper house of Parliament that a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was expected soon. At the same time, he accused the previous government of knowingly abandoning the agreements it made with the money lender.
“The fact of the matter is that when we took over, our economy was facing very difficult challenges. We had negotiated and signed the agreement with the IMF but we did not adhere to it. We didn’t respect the terms and conditions [and] flouted them which damaged Pakistan’s image, trust and confidence.”
The prime minister said the country was facing serious political and economic challenges but stressed that all parties needed to align their goals for a better Pakistan.
“Let us brighten the future of Pakistan. We should strive, not conspire, remove hurdles instead of creating the [and] unite the nation instead of creating division,” the prime minister advised.
Amid unrest, Shehbaz offers to parley with Imran
A day earlier, PM Shehbaz had extended an olive branch to him, emphasising that all political forces will have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises.
“All political forces will have to sit together to take the country forward,” the premier had said while addressing a meeting held with a delegation of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) at the PM House.
However, PM Shehbaz had also 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, PTI 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.
Additional input from APP