ISLAMABAD: PTI stalwart Asad Qaiser on Monday ruled out a dialogue with the government amid a crackdown on the former ruling party and said there was a need to improve the prevalent state of affairs to pave the way for talks.

The former National Assembly speaker made these remarks as he appeared at an Islamabad court in cases registered against him, purportedly in light of violent protests on May 9, triggered by the arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan in a corruption case.

In response to a question about whether talks with the government were possible, the PTI leader said the party was willing to consider the proposal if there was a practical and serious offer in this regard, but the current environment — a likely reference to clampdown on PTI — was not conducive for dialogue.

Mr Qaiser denied any form of contact with Jahangir Khan Tareen, a former confidant of Imran Khan, who is actively wooing PTI defectors to swell his ranks ahead of general elections later this year. Besides Mr Tareen, another group of PTI defectors, named ‘Democrats’, led by Murad Raas, has emerged as well.

Party leaders deny contact with Tareen; another ex-MNA quits

The ex-NA speaker also denied contact with Fawad Chaudhry, who had parted ways with Imran Khan following the May 9 protests. Mr Qasier said he was in touch with the PTI chairman and was standing with the party.

PTI leader Asad Umar also denied contact with Mr Tareen in response to questions by reporters as he appeared before a judge to seek bail in cases registered against him. He, however, admitted that Fawad Chaudhry was in contact with him “from time to time”.

Mr Umar was also asked whether he was facing any “pressure”. He promptly replied that the only “pressure” he was facing was appearing before different courts every day. “Since my release from Adiala Jail, I have attended more than eight court hearings,” the former minister said. Mr Umar had quit party offices but chose to remain in PTI’s fold following May 9 protests.

Talks offer

It may be noted that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had asked the PTI chairman to get in touch with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif if he wanted to kick-start ‘productive’ talks with the government to end the political crisis.

The minister’s remarks had come in response to a seven-member committee formed by the PTI chairman on May 27 to hold negotiations on behalf of the ex-ruling party. The PTI, however, did not clarify who the committee would negotiate with.

On June 2, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that his party’s offer for negotiations was only extended to the “real decision-makers” and not “puppets”. In a tweet, he said: “We don’t want to waste time negotiating with puppets. These are imposed people who have no vote bank and are hiding behind crutches.” “For the sake of restoration of the constitution and democracy, negotiations have been offered only with the real decision-makers,” he said in a thinly-veiled reference to the establishment.

Ex-MNA quits PTI

As the PTI continued to face defections, former PTI MNA and ticket holder Rana Nazir parted ways with the party in a press conference held at the National Press Club on Monday. Mr Nazir said he made a “wrong decision” of joining the PTI in 2018.

“I was deceived by the slogan of Riasat-i-Madina and now [I am] regretting it. The incidents of May 9 are condemnable and that is why I have decided to part my ways with the PTI,” he told reporters.

He said that he could not understand why protesters were “encouraged to burn down the Jinnah House [Lahore corps commander’s residence] and military installations”. “It was my mistake that I joined PTI and followed Imran Khan. Now it has been proved that the PTI was involved in May 9 incidents so I have been left with no choice but to quit the party,” he said. Mr Rana said that he will decide about his political future after discussing it with his “close friends”.

It may be noted that scores of PTI leaders, including key leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Shireen Mazari, had parted ways with Imran Khan following a clampdown on the party in light of violence on May 9 which engulfed military installations as well as government buildings.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2023

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