• Dar gives PM progress report on dialogue with PTI, Nawaz will try to win over Fazl
• PTI announces intention to attend Tuesday’s session despite ‘sabotage attempts’
• Imran says will exit talks if National Assembly not disbanded before May 14

LAHORE: Unless something dramatic happens, it seems Tuesday will be a tough day for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and government negotiators, with the former seeking the dissolution of assemblies before May 14 and the latter appearing in no mood to entertain this demand.

The bonhomie on display throughout this week between the two sides was jolted by the late-night raids on former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi’s home.

But with both major parties refusing to budge from their respective stances, cha­nces that the dialogue will yield positive results are starting to look “very slim”.

Speaking to party workers on Satur­day, Imran Khan said his party would be ready to discuss the election date only after the dissolution of the NA before May 14 — the cut-off date for elections in Punjab.

“The PTI’s negotiating team will meet the government’s team for the third round on Tuesday (May 2) and present its demand to dissolve the National Assembly before May 14, otherwise [PTI] will go ahead with the Punjab general elections as per Supreme Court’s order,” Mr Khan said and added the PTI would also approach the apex court for earliest general elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the constitutional time frame of 90 days had already passed.

But in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at Model Town, the senior leadership of the PML-N decided it would not back down from its demand for simultaneous polls across the country.

The meeting discussed talks with the opposition party as well as negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to revive the stalled loan package.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar updated the party leaders on the status of talks with the opposition as the huddle, also attended by Nawaz Sharif, resolved that the coalition government will stick to its demand for timely elections, a party insider said while talking to Dawn.

He said the meeting resolved that all coalition parties especially the JUI-F would be taken on board regarding the final decision on the demands of the PTI. The source is of the view that in case of an agreement between the ruling coalition and the PTI on polls, even though “chances are slim”, party supremo Nawaz Sharif will try to win the Maulana over.

Mr Dar briefed the huddle on economic challenges and the staff-level agreement progress with the IMF. “Nawaz Sharif asked Ishaq Dar to step up efforts to secure an agreement with the IMF, saying the party would go into elections after giving relief to the masses,” the source said.

Budget prerogative of party with mandate

In an interactive session with party workers in Lahore via Zoom, Mr Khan expressed disconcertment with the PDM government’s logic to dissolve the assembly only after passing the budget for the next financial year. The former prime minister said the government was being “completely illogical” as only a government with the people’s mandate should pass the budget.

On “behalf of the whole nation”, PTI chief Imran Khan made an impassioned appeal to all judges of the Supreme Court to “get united and save the country” from an imminent disaster as Constitution was “being discredited and people being denied of their fundamental rights”.

He said the Punjab and KP caretaker governments had become illegal and asked whether the Punjab caretaker government took any step towards holding of elections in the province.

“What is the constitutional status of the Punjab caretaker government, why it is working, and who is behind this government and compelling it to do all kinds of illegal things,” the PTI chief asked the apex court judges.

Warning to powers-that-be

Mr Khan said people of Pakistan were coming out for peaceful protests under the banner of the PTI as they were waiting for elections. “If elections will be denied, these people will not stay peaceful and Pakistan may face a situation worse than Sri Lanka,” Mr Khan said in a warning to the powers-that-be.

The PTI chief also announced Labour Day rallies in Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar on May Day (Monday) with a secondary objective: ‘Save Constitution – Save Pakistan’. Mr Khan said he would lead the Lahore rally from Liberty to Nasser Bagh, while Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Pervez Khattak will lead rallies in Islamabad and Peshawar, respectively.

According to Fawad Chaudhry, the PTI has rejected the attempts to sabotage the talks and decided that the negotiations with the government would continue on the issue of elections in light of the top court order and the Constitution. The final agenda will be discussed on Tuesday, he tweeted.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the coalition government was divided over talks with the PTI, as the PML-N leadership was engaging the PTI for talks while PDM President Maulana Fazalur Rehman and PML-N leader Khawaja Asif were opposing the dialogue. “If the PDM coalition government wants to carry forward the ongoing dialogue, it should convince leaders within its ranks and create an enabling environment to go ahead,” Mr Qureshi said and added that the raid at Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s residence had destroyed the environment for talks.

The PTI leader said Imran Khan has been briefed on the first and second rounds of talks and added that the party chairman was privy to all the details of the dialogue.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2023

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