Election impasse: Govt, PTI members to meet again tomorrow after opening round of talks at Parliament House
Members of the ruling coalition and opposition PTI will resume talks on elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tomorrow (Friday), following the initiation of dialogue at the Parliament House today.
Representatives from both sides met inside Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani’s chamber on Thursday evening to begin the negotiations, a Dawn.com correspondent confirmed, saying that the talks concluded after more than an hour.
The negotiations have taken place while a written order is awaited by the Supreme Court regarding elections in Punjab and KP — an issue on which there has been a weeks-long impasse between the ruling coalition, the opposition and the higher judiciary.
PPP’s Yousaf Raza Gilani, who participated in the negotiations from the government’s side, said while speaking to the media that the talks would be resumed tomorrow at 3pm at the Parliament House, during which the PTI would present its demands.
Parties part of the ruling coalition would then be apprised of the PTI’s demands, he added.
Alongside him, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said it was principally decided that matters would be resolved within the ambit of the Constitution.
‘No delaying tactics’
Later, Senator Ali Zafar, who was part of the PTI’s negotiating team, said it was agreed during today’s talks that a solution to the ongoing deadlock should be such that it worked best for the country and the nation.
“We agreed not to employ any delaying tactics and assured each other that sincere efforts would be made to find a good solution,” he added.
Zafar shared these details during Geo News programme Capital Talk, saying that a consensus was reached today that all aspects of the issue of elections should be discussed and debated during the negotiations.
Moreover, he added, “It was decided that there will be one-point agenda for the talks — elections.”
The senator said the PTI intended to conclude the talks before the end of this week, but the talks may continue for a longer period. But “ee intend to submit our findings to the Supreme Court by Monday”, he added, referring to the top court’s directives for political parties to hold talks and evolve a consensus on elections.
He further said that no allegations were exchanged between the two sides during the talks today.
Ruling coalition to take all allies on board: Qureshi
Meanwhile, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, another member of the PTI’s negotiating committee, said while speaking to the media in Islamabad that both sides had presented their stance today and members of the ruling coalition told them that they had to take all allies on board.
“We have already consulted PTI chief Imran Khan and have his full mandate,” he said, adding that representatives of the ruling coalition had told the PTI delegation that all coalition partners had to be consulted and taken on board.
The PTI leader said the PTI had agreed to their request and asked them to proposed a solution after consulting their allies. “And if the solution is within the constitutional ambit, we will discuss it with an open mind.”
Regarding the progress of today’s talks, he said both sides agreed that solutions to political problems could be found through talks, provided that they are held with sincere intentions and in a meaningful way.
“Our intention is to find a way forward for these talks and not use them as delaying tactics,” he said, adding, “We believe that whatever solution we will come up with it would be within the constitutional ambit.”
Earlier, video footage from before the meeting showed Qureshi and Senator Zafar — two of the members included in the PTI’s negotiating team — arriving at the Parliament House.
Accompanying them was Faisal Chaudhry, brother of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry who is also part of the PTI’s negotiating committee.
Speaking to the media ahead of the meeting, Qureshi said that there was only “one-point agenda” for the talks, and that was elections.
When a reporter sought clarification on whether he meant early elections, he succinctly replied, “elections”.
In response to another question, he said the PTI’s delegation had Imran Khan’s complete mandate for the talks. “Whether the Pakistan Democratic Movement has the mandate for the talks, this you may ask them.”
Asked whether the PTI was sticking to its stance of the government using the talks as a delaying tactic, Qureshi replied, “This will become apparent by their attitude.
“In the past, their attitude has shown that they are using delaying tactics. Let’s see how their attitude is today,” the ex-foreign minister said.
The PTI leader said the purpose of today’s talks was to end uncertainty in the country.
Sanjrani seeks committee
Earlier today, Senate Chairman Sanjarani wrote letters to Leader of the House Ishaq Dar and Opposition’s Shahzad Wasim seeking names of members for a “special committee” on “holding political dialogue”.
The development had come a day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that “arbitration is not the SC’s job” and the parliament will have the final say regarding the initiation of talks with the PTI.
Subsequently, two senior ministers contacted the Senate chairman and urged him to play his role in bridging the divide.
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique met Sanjrani and asked him to form a committee comprising five senators each from the government and opposition sides, government sources told Dawn.
In identical letters addressed to Dar and Shahzad today, copies of which are available with Dawn.com, the Senate chairman said that he was approached by the government and allies to “facilitate the initiation of political dialogue to address the ongoing political and economic crisis including the holding of general elections”.
“In this context, the constitution of a committee comprising members of the Senate belonging to both sides of the aisles has been proposed,” he said.
Sanjarani noted that the Senate was bestowed with the responsibility of “protecting the national and political harmony vis-a-vis the national and public interest”.
Therefore, he continued, a 10-member committee was being formed for holding political dialogue under the joint convenership of Dar and Shahzad. It will comprise four members each from the treasury and opposition benches.
“My office and the Senate Secretariat will remain available to assist/facilitate the committee in the performance of its functions for preserving the political system and for the betterment of the state,” the Senate chairman said.
He further directed both the opposition and government to nominate the names of their members within two days.
PTI says govt should bring proposals before the SC
Meanwhile, PTI’s Waseem replied to Sanjrani’s letter and highlighted that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had already formed a three-member “high powered committee” comprising Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry and Ali Zafar for “meaningful dialogue” on holding elections within the ambit of the Constitution and as per the top court’s orders.
“I would appreciate if you, using your good offices, may communicate to the government that if it’s sincere in dialogue for holding elections, then it should bring its proposals before the August SC during its hearing on the matter” scheduled for today, the letter said.
“Otherwise, it will only delay and complicate the matter,” Waseem said.
The letters come against the backdrop of an impasse regarding elections in KP and Punjab — where the provincial assemblies were dissolved earlier this year. While the PTI has been adamant about holding polls in the provincial legislatures, the government maintains its stance on holding polls across the country on the same day.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court (SC) — while hearing a PTI petition — had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold general elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14. However, the government had rejected the apex court’s orders.
After repeated back and forth last week, the SC on Thursday afforded a temporary respite to the country’s main political parties, giving them time till April 26 to develop a consensus on the date for elections to the provincial and national assemblies, so they could be held simultaneously across the country.
However, on Wednesday, PM Shehbaz reiterated that simultaneous elections will take place in October or November after the current National Assembly completed its term on Aug 13, whereas parliament will have the final say regarding the initiation of talks with the opposition.
The government wanted to talk to the PTI, he said, adding that there was an overwhelming opinion that the doors of dialogue should not be closed, but its format was yet to be decided. “The decision [regarding talks] has to be taken by parliament, not you or me,” he added.