PTI and government representatives meet for talks at Parliament House on Thursday.—Screengrab
PTI and government representatives meet for talks at Parliament House on Thursday.—Screengrab

• PTI proposes dissolution of assemblies in May, elections in July, amendment to condone over 90-day delay in polls
• Both sides agree not to use dialogue as a ‘delaying tactic’; another round of talks due today

ISLAMABAD: After a year of bitter political rivalry, representatives of the coalition government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) finally met face to face on Thursday in a bid to break the stalemate that has lingered on following the successful no-confidence motion against former prime minister Imran Khan in April last year.

The huddle, being dubbed an icebreaker, was held at Parliament House hours after proceedings of the case pertaining to the delay in polls, being heard by a three-member bench of the Supreme Court. A day earlier, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had made efforts to bring the opposition party to the table for a dialogue with the government at the request of the federal government.

The PTI delegation included Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, and Senator Ali Zafar whereas the government was represented by PML-N’s Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Azam Nazeer Tarar, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and PPP leaders Yousuf Raza Gilani and Naveed Qamar.

Insiders told Dawn that the PTI had put forth three key demands during the meeting — the dissolution of the National Assembly and Sindh and Balochistan legislatures in May to pave way for general elections in July; the passage of a constitutional amendment for a one-time concession to delay polls beyond 90 days if the government wanted to go beyond the May 14 election date in Punjab; and, the withdrawl of the speaker’s order accepting the resignations of PTI MNAs to bring them back to the National Assembly.

The government team has sought some time to discuss the demands, the sources added, and the two sides will meet again today (on Friday) to continue talks.

Though MQM-P lawmaker Kishwar Zehra was a part of the government-nominated team, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) was conspicuous by its absence from the meeting.

‘No delay tactics’

PTI Senator Syed Ali Zafar, while talking to reporters after the meeting, said both sides have agreed that talks would not be used as a delaying tactic. He said that the negotiations committee had a one-point agenda i.e. ‘elections’.

During the meeting, the government and the opposition tried to understand each other’s stance in the parleys. The committee also would try to inform the Supreme Court about any outcome of talks by Monday, he added.

After the end of the first round of talks, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that political parties used to resolve the political issues through talks but any extra-constitutional resolution of the matter would not be possible.

He confirmed that the government side has sought some time for a discussion with its leadership to respond to their terms.

PPP’s Yousuf Raza Gillani told the media that a final decision on the elections would be taken after consultations with all the parties. “All matters would be resolved while remaining within the limits of law and the Constitution.”

Earlier in the day, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani wrote separate letters to Leader of the House Ishaq Dar and Leader of Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem asking them to nominate members from both the treasury and opposition benches for a special committee to initiate talks.

In separate letters, the Senate chairman requested both leaders to provide the names of four members from each side for inclusion in the special committee within two days.

ANP invites PTI for multi-party moot

Prior to the huddle with the government, the PTI convened a meeting to devise a strategy for talks with the government.

According to a PTI leader, the strategy was to ensure that PDM would not be able to say that the negotiations were derailed because of the PTI. Meanwhile, the leadership of the Awami National Party (ANP) expressed their desire to have a formal meeting with Chairman Imran Khan.

The development took place in a meeting of the ANP leaders — Zahid Khan and Mian Iftikhar Hussain — called on Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Fawad Chaudhry in Islamabad. During the meeting, they extended an invitation to the PTI to attend the ANP’s multi-party conference on July 3.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2023

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