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Saturday June 15, 2024

Govt, PTI hold much-awaited talks on election date

JUI-F stays away from talks; PTI presents three demands; next session to take place tomorrow

By Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai & Haider Sherazi
April 27, 2023
PTI (left) and PDM delegations during a meeting at Parliament House in Islamabad, on April 27, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — The News via Haider Sherazi
PTI (left) and PDM delegations during a meeting at Parliament House in Islamabad, on April 27, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — The News via Haider Sherazi

ISLAMABAD: After a months-long standoff, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Thursday held their much-awaited talks on the election date after the Supreme Court's orders.

In the first round of talks — which lasted for around two hours — at the Parliament House's Committee Room Number 3, both sides informed each other about their top leadership's stance, sources told Geo News. The second meeting will be held tomorrow.

The government's delegation comprised Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Yousaf Raza Gilani, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, and Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar.

The opposition's delegation included PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, and the party's top legal expert Barrister Ali Zafar.

The delegation informed the government about PTI Chairman Imran Khan's stance on elections and about how the elections should be conducted.

Talking to journalists after the meeting, Gilani said the ruling parties would consult each other and make a decision. "Whatever is decided, it will be based on input from all parties."

Qureshi, while speaking to the media, the consultations ended after two hours and stressed that political parties find solutions to problems through talks.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) speaks to media in Islamabad, on April 27, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — Twitter/@PTIOfficial
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) speaks to media in Islamabad, on April 27, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — Twitter/@PTIOfficial

"We have entered the talks with a spirit of arriving at a decision [...] but we will not allow the talks to be used as a delaying tactic for polls," the PTI vice chairman said.

After the meeting, sources told Geo News that the PTI presented three demands before the government delegation:

  • The national and provincial assemblies should be dissolved in May this year and for extending polls beyond May 14, amendment should be made to the Constitution;
  • If the government decides to amend Constitution, then PTI's resignations will have to be called back;
  • Elections should be held across the country in July this year.

JUI-F not part of talks

In his speech in the National Assembly earlier today, when he secured a vote of confidence, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the government would hold conditional talks with the PTI.

"The allied parties have decided to hold negotiations with PTI in Senate and we will send our representatives in this regard today, but talks will be held only on holding polls across the country simultaneously."

The meeting is crucial at a time when the country sees intense political and economic turmoil as the political forces remain at loggerheads with not just each other, but the Supreme Court as well.

The court had directed the political parties to decide on the election date by April 26, but no progress was made till the deadline. In today's hearing, the SC mentioned that it cannot ask parties to hold negotiations forcefully.

"The court cannot force [parties] on a dialogue. The court only wants implementation on the Constitution so that the dispute is resolved," Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said.

The alliance's chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — who is also the president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — said his party was against the negotiations and would not be part of the talks with PTI.

In conversation with journalists, Fazl said holding consultations is the job of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), not political parties.

"The Supreme Court is forcefully asking us to hold talks; all the political parties are trying to convince one person [Khan] and we cannot do that," the JUI-F chief said.

The political turmoil — that began after Khan's ouster in April last year — has led to severe economic distress, with the rupee falling to historic lows against the dollar and foreign exchange reserves falling to less than a month's import cover.