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Sunday June 23, 2024

Election conundrum: Final round of talks between govt, PTI on Tuesday

Both sides rule out reports of deadlock; PTI warns of talks derailing over workers' arrests

By Azaz Syed
April 28, 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. — Geo.tv 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. — Geo.tv via Haider Sherazi

ISLAMABAD: The final round of talks between the government and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will be held on Tuesday (May 2) with both sides ruling out reports of a deadlock.

Following the second round of talks — which was held Friday in Senate’s Committee Room — the sides decided to consult with their top leadership and allies over the proposals presented during the meeting.

Both delegations were hopeful of concluding on Tuesday, but PTI warned that the talks could "derail" at any point if the law enforcers keep arresting its workers.

The talks are crucial to end an impasse over the elections, which has fueled political tensions in the country, leading to an economic crisis, with the Supreme Court also urging the political forces to negotiate and find out a solution to the prevailing turmoil.

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 yesterday'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.

But PDM and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has decided to stay away from the talks as his party believes that the negotiations with Imran Khan's PTI would bear no fruit.

'Reasonable progress'

In conversation with journalists after the talks, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said progress has been made. Without disclosing, he said both sides have presented their proposals.

"There is no deadlock in the talks. PTI and the government's committees will meet on Tuesday at 11am," he said, elaborating that the meeting has been postponed till next week as both sides need to discuss the proposals with their leadership.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar during a press conference in Islamabad, on April 28, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar during a press conference in Islamabad, on April 28, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews

Talking to journalists, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in his view, "reasonable progress" was made today and that he would inform party chairman Khan about the talks after visiting him in Lahore.

"We presented our point of view and they presented theirs," Qureshi said, without elaborating on what the proposals were so far.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, during the same press conference, said the talks were held in a "positive atmosphere", but warned that talks would derail if arrests of his party workers did not stop.

"The arrests will destroy the negotiation process. Ali Amin Gandapur has still not been released despite him securing bail in all his cases," the former information minister said.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) and PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry during a press conference in Islamabad, on April 28, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) and PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry during a press conference in Islamabad, on April 28, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews

Fawad said the government and ministers claim that they are not behind the arrests, but warned that whoever was behind the detentions was hurting the negotiation process.

Proposals?

Sources familiar with the talks told Geo News that the government has suggested holding polls in September this year.

However, the sources said the PTI did not agree to this at first and proposed that polls be held in July.

At this, the sources said, the government representatives told the opposition that they have to present the budget in June and elections in July would be too early.

The PTI delegation then agreed to put forward the government's proposal before Khan.

The sources added that Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan's lawmaker Kishwer Zehra told the members of the meeting that it would be better if both sides reach a consensus, otherwise, it would be a setback for them if an external force gets involved.

What is Khan's condition?

Earlier today, PTI chief Khan, in an informal talk with the media at the Islamabad High Court, said that he has instructed leaders Qureshi and Fawad to only talk with the government if they are willing to dissolve the National Assembly.

“I am telling these two if the government is ready to dissolve the National Assembly at once and hold elections then talk. If they (the government) repeat the same talk of holding elections in September or October, then there is no need,” said the PTI chief.

The PTI chief also stated that the “ball” was now in the government’s court on the matter of elections.

“If elections are not held [in Punjab] on May 14, it means the Constitution has been torn apart. If the Constitution is violated, then whoever has power will have his way,” said the PTI chief.

He said that his party always respected the Supreme Court, adding that there was no comparison between the PTI and Pakistan Democratic Movement as his party adhered to the Constitution while the other side did not.

“The Constitution is supreme, not the Parliament,” stressed Khan.