ISLAMABAD: The government once again extended an olive branch to the PTI on Friday, inviting the party to the negotiating table to sort out important national issues, but deplored that PTI chief Imran Khan was adamant to hold talks with the establishment alone.
“He [Imran] has offered to talk to the military leadership several times, but not the political leadership. Despite the fact that the present government has stated on so many occasions that it’s willing to hold dialogue, Imran kept on insisting on holding negotiation with the establishment and went to the extent of trying to approach the present leadership of Pakistan Army,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told a news conference.
Flanked by Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Mr Asif spoke to members of the foreign press corps about the so-called PTI narrative and subversion of the Constitution.
“PTI chief approached former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa multiple times through the president and even offered him an extension. Despite all his claims, Imran has not materially offered anything to the present government for dialogue,” he added.
The defence minister said the government was ready to hold talks for the sake of peace in the country. “Consensus is needed on major issues that Pakistan has been facing for the last few years,” he added.
“We are not in favour of a transactional dialogue [but] need something which is comprehensive, which covers everything,” he said, adding that the government was ready to hold a comprehensive dialogue with PTI for the sake of the country’s prosperity and national interest.
He said a lot has happened over the last year in the political journey of the opposition. “Imran Khan’s political journey started with a cipher,” he added.
First, Mr Khan alleged that a conspiracy was hatched against his regime. “The US was accused of hatching that conspiracy against Pakistan and Imran Khan’s government, but the same PTI people are now seeking help from the alleged perpetrators of the foreign conspiracy,” he added.
Although he accused Shireen Mazari of writing to the US, she had actually written to the UN to point out alleged rights abuses by the incumbent government.
Khawaja Asif said nowhere in the world a suspect had ever refused to appear before a court of law. “But Imran Khan refused to appear in the courts on different pretexts and security reasons or reasons of being victimised,” he added.
The minister pointed out that during his (Imran Khan’s) regime as well as before his government opposition workers and leaders were arrested and they always submitted to the law in a very graceful and dignified manner as political workers.
He claimed that victimisation of the opposition was unprecedented in Mr Khan’s era. “We have seen that when politicians were victimised during martial law and military governments. But the sort of victimisation and hounding that happened during the PTI government was never there,” he added.
The defence minister slammed Imran Khan for “flirting” with the American government after accusing it of hatching a conspiracy and claimed that the former prime minister’s “cult following would soon fizzle out”.
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2023
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