LAHORE: Amid speculations of talks with the establishment, the PTI has linked the proposed dialogue to the release of incarcerated leaders of the party, including its chief Imran Khan, as confidence-building measures by the powers that be.

The remarks by the PTI leaders came in light of an uproar to convince the PTI to hold a dialogue to steer the country out of political and economic crises amid conflicting statements by the top party officials.

Against this backdrop, more and more party leaders, including those imprisoned, have suggested that the party should go for dialogue only after some tangible actions.

To set the groundwork for dialogue, some leaders suggested that all incarcerated party leaders be released on bail and the ‘stolen mandate’ of the PTI in the Feb 8 polls be returned.

In a joint letter to the party founder, Mr Khan, and the core committee, PTI’s imprisoned leaders Senator Ejaz Chaudhry and former Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema suggested the party should go for dialogue only after some confidence-building measures.

Ejaz Chaudhry, Omar Cheema call for release of Imran, jailed supporters to build confidence

They said that the powers that be should ensure the release of Imran Khan and other PTI leaders and workers including the May 9 accused on bail. They also sought guarantees from the establishment.

Senator Chaudhry and Mr Cheema stated that the dialogue agenda should include the formation of a judicial commission to probe the Feb 8 general elections and May 9 incidents.

They suggested that the proposed dialogue should ensure the complete restoration of the Constitution and scrutiny of “unconstitutional steps” taken by the caretaker governments.

They also suggested that the proposed dialogue should look for electoral reforms for free and fair elections, besides removing the incumbent chief election commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja.

The dialogue should also discuss and create an environment for democratic liberties, free speech and public meetings as allowed under the Constitution of Pakistan, they said.

Separately, PTI Central Punjab General Secretary Hammad Azhar asserted that Mr Khan would not talk to the establishment until the masses’ stolen mandate was returned and all incarcerated party leaders were released.

The former federal minister, however, also claimed that the establishment “lacked credibility and ethics” for a dialogue to kick-start.

“The establishment had no credibility even before the May 9 false flag operation, which was used as an excuse to batter the PTI leaders and workers…to achieve its political agendas,” Mr Azhar alleged.

“The Islamabad High Court judges faced no harassment or torture as compared to the establishment’s might unleashed on PTI leaders and workers. The torture [on PTI workers]stories will baffle human beings,” Mr Azhar lamented.

The PTI leader said “massive sacrifices” had been offered by the PTI supporters and people enthusiastically voted for the PTI candidates. “Now the ball is in the court of Imran Khan and nobody, except some cronies, was standing with the establishment,” he claimed.

PTI leader Moonis Elahi told Dawn that “a productive dialogue” could only happen after the stolen mandate was returned as a goodwill gesture to start talks with the establishment and the ruling political parties.

PTI leader Shahbaz Gill said the PTI would not start a dialogue with a government that was not even empowered enough to appoint its interior minister and the Islamabad police chief.

“The incumbent government is looking for dialogue with the PTI to become politically relevant and create an enabling environment for itself,” said Mr Gill.

“Imran Khan will be released soon and the government is trying to colour the prospective release as a deal,” he said and asserted Mr Khan would never start a “dialogue with thieves”.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2024

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