‘Yes’ to polls in one go; date yet to be decided

Published May 3, 2023
ISLAMABAD: Government and PTI leaders hold the third round of talks on the elections date, on Tuesday.—Instagram / SMQureshi
ISLAMABAD: Government and PTI leaders hold the third round of talks on the elections date, on Tuesday.—Instagram / SMQureshi

• Talks conclude after govt, PTI teams share fresh proposals, no date set for next round
• Dar, Gilani offer optimistic view of dialogue
• Qureshi claims no headway on proposals from their side

ISLAMABAD: A make-or-break round of negotiations between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) concluded late on Tuesday night with some semblance of consensus, with both sides maintaining that more work still needs to be done.

Speaking to reporters after the sitting, Ishaq Dar — who is leading the government side — told reporters that both sides had agreed to hold elections to the national and provincial assemblies on a single date under the watch of caretaker setups, but it had yet to be decided what that date would be.

But while the finance minister and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed positive headway in the sitting, with both sides showing flexibility, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi regretted that no decision could be taken on “practicable proposals” put forward by his party.

Mr Qureshi was adamant that the Supreme Court’s verdict of April 4 — ordering elections to be held in Punjab on May 14 — should be implemented in letter and spirit.

“The determination of the election date is a complicated process,” he remarked.

Mr Gilani was optimistic in his outlook saying the two sides had also agreed to accept the election results. But according to Mr Qureshi, the two sides merely agreed that political parties should endeavour to follow the path which is in the public interest and in line with the Constitution.

He said it was also agreed that the talks should not be used as a delaying tactic. The PTI leader also spoke about the need to work out an implementation mechanism.

Initially, Mr Qureshi said, PTI wanted elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies within 90 days, as per the Constitution, while the government wanted elections to all assemblies on a single day following the expiry of the National Assembly’s term in August.

He said that during the talks, both sides tried to come closer to each other’s positions. Outlining his party’s viewpoint, he said the National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan should be dissolved before May 14, to be followed by elections.

He said the PTI was ready to go to the National Assembly to give constitutional cover to the delayed elections, adding that they sought a written agreement with the government, which could be presented before the Supreme Court to ensure its implementation.

While there was no official word on when a next round of talks would be held, sources said the two sides had exchanged fresh sets of proposals.

As per the sources, PTI now wants elections somewhere in mid-August.

Shortly before the third round of talks concluded, Mr Gilani and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique came out of the committee room where the dialogue is being held, ostensibly to establish telephonic contact with the party leadership to seek fresh instructions.

Shortly afterwards, the PTI team also came out for consultation over the government’s proposals regarding an election date.

When the two teams met again after consulting their respective leaderships, they exchanged written proposals once again.

The first round of the talks was held on April 27, hours after Senate Chairman 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.

The third round came after a four-day interval; the previous round of talks was held on Friday. During this time, PTI ally and former Punjab chief minister Pervaz Elahi’s home was raided, which the PTI termed an effort to sabotage talks. However, they resolved to stay on the table despite such spoilers.

In addition, cabinet ministers such as Javed Latif and Khawaja Asif also openly opposed the dialogue with PTI, prompting the opposition party to seek clarification from the government.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2023

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