• PML-N forms two-member panel, PTI tasks three-men team to kick off dialogue via Jamaat-i-Islami
• PTI leader says party favours negotiations in parliament, wants opposition leader’s slot back

LAHORE: After more than a year of simmering political tensions between the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the opposition Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), it seems the ice has started melting with both parties forming panels to engage in indirect dialogue.

The impasse between the two warring parties was broken by JI emir Sirajul Haq, who held separate meetings with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PTI chief Imran Khan on Saturday and reported a “positive response” from both sides for holding talks on the issue of elections. Now, both parties — instead of engaging in a direct dialogue — will route their talks through the JI.

In a positive response to the ‘consensus offensive’ of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the PML-N tasked Ayaz Sadiq and Saad Rafique to hold talks while the PTI formed a three-member panel com­prising Pervez Khattak, Mehmoodur Rashid, and Ejaz Chaudhry for the task.

Sources in PML-N said Mr Sadiq and Saad Rafique were given a go-ahead to approach the JI for talks. However, the PTI also reiterated its stance of seeking date for polls.

Senator Ejaz Chaudhry told Dawn that PTI had begun consultations to take all opposition parties into confidence over elections across the country. He said PTI has already had meetings with the JI, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakis­tan (TLP), and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).

“We have met and urged all political parties (outside ruling coalition) to join hands and put up resistance against the PDM that is avoiding elections,” he added.

Acknowledging that PTI chief Imran Khan was saying that he would not talk to the “looters of national wealth” and a similar attitude was being shown by the ruling coalition, Mr Chaudhry said the PTI wanted to hold dialogue in the parliament. “PTI wants to join parliament, reclaim the opposition leader position, and unanimously pass a one-time constitutional amendment to hold early elections in the country,” Senator Chaudhry said.

When approached, Mian Mahmoodur Ras­heed said the meeting between Imran Khan and Sirajul Haq had evolved a consensus that the severe political deadlock in the country should be ended through a dialogue.

He said the JI had done some homework after the PTI team comprising Asad Umer and Senator Chaudhry had met its leadership two weeks ago before it went to meet PM Shehbaz.

“All the parties may keep sticking to their res­pective points of view but it was high time that political parties sho­wed prudence to find a middle ground to save the country and people from the worst-ever year-long political and economic deadlock,” Mr Rasheed added.

While PTI leaders term Imran-Siraj meeting a major development to break the deadlock among major political parties, the JI emir had suggested the formation of a committee to develop a larger consensus for the holding of elections in the country. Both PTI and JI are in agreement to keep the door of consultations on a regular basis open, they added.

MPC likely after Eid?

On the other hand, the JI is likely to convene a multi-party conference after Eidul Fitr with the one-point agenda of deciding a date for holding general elections across the country on a single day.

The proposed multi-party moot would try to convince the ruling coalition to agree to hold general elections before October, while the PTI would be persuaded to drop its demand for conducting the electoral exercise (particularly in Punjab) on May 14.

JI information secretary Qaiser Sharif said the venue and date for the proposed MPC would be finalised after initial consultations with different parties on the issue.

“When the JI will contact all political parties and be able to develop a consensus to hold a grand dialogue on one-point agenda – elections in one go in the country, only then the JI will be happy to host an MPC,” Mr Sharif asserted.

“JI emir Siraj has urged PM Shehbaz Sharif and PTI chief Imran Khan to show some flexibility and agree on an election date a couple of months earlier and later, respectively, against their existing inflexible stance,” the JI leader revealed. He said Mr Haq had already announced at a presser that he would be happy to host a prospective MPC at his party’s headquarters.

Sirajul Haq is likely to call on Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari after Eid as contacts with the PML-N and PTI have already been made for the purpose. It may be mentioned that the PPP formed a three-man body comprising Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani, Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar and PM’s Adviser on Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira last week to “engage with allies in the coalition government to reach a consensus on dialogue with the PTI.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2023

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