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Thursday May 30, 2024

Govt-PTI icebreaking talks begin after PM takes trust vote in NA

PM demands inquiry into 2018 election ‘rigging’; says 3-member verdict unacceptable even if he’s sent packing by court

By Asim Yasin & Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
April 28, 2023
ISLAMABAD: (Clockwise) PTI and PDM leaders holding talks at the Parliament House here on Thursday; Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif exchanging views with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari; PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressing the National Assembly session.—The News
ISLAMABAD: (Clockwise) PTI and PDM leaders holding talks at the Parliament House here on Thursday; Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif exchanging views with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari; PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressing the National Assembly session.—The News

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Thursday secured the vote of confidence from the National Assembly with 180 votes cast in his favour by the MNAs belonging to Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other parties of the ruling coalition.

Also, in a rare gesture, the coalition federal government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Thursday finally opted to sit at the negotiating table to discuss the election date, following Supreme Court’s orders, though Maulana Fazlur Rehman stayed away from the process.

“Muhammad Shehbaz has obtained the vote of confidence from the National Assembly with 180 votes and he commands a majority of the House as the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf said after the counting process.

He said had deceased federal minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor been alive, the number of votes would have been 181.

Earlier, Foreign Minister and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari read out a resolution, which said “The House expresses confidence in Mian Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister of Pakistan”.

PPP parliamentarian Nawaz Yousaf Talpur and elderly JUIF member Maulvi Ismatullah arrived in the National Assembly hall on wheelchairs to participate in the voting process.

Shehbaz Sharif had secured 174 votes from the House when he was elected as the prime minister on April 11, 2022. He thanked the leaders of coalition partners including former president Asif Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, Khalid Magsi, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Amir Haider Hoti, Aftab Khan Sherpao and Mohsin Dawar over their support.

Speaking in the house, the PM said that no force could snatch Parliament’s powers and the respect given to it by the people of Pakistan. He alleged that Imran Khan connived with the then chief justice of Pakistan and hatched a conspiracy against the parliament and Pakistan.

“Everything has been exposed now that how the 2018 elections were rigged, and how politicians in south Punjab were forced to change their loyalties and the RTS [Results Transmission System] was made to collapse.

“It was the first elections in the country’s history that results from rural areas came early while it took days to receive results from urban centres,” he said adding that there was a person namely Saqib Nisar who ordered that vote counting would be held inside courts.

He said the then-prime minister had made a commitment that there would be an inquiry into allegations of rigging, but that promise was not fulfilled despite the passage of five years. “I, on the floor of the house, demand that there should be an inquiry into 2018 election rigging,” he said.

The PM promised that he would not shatter the confidence of the House, reposed in him again, and always stand by the decisions taken by its members. He reiterated that the judiciary never had any right to rewrite the Constitution, but still threats were being given. They say “it seems the PM has lost confidence of the National Assembly. Today, the house has given its decision by expressing its confidence in the prime minister,” Shehbaz added. He said “the house accepts SC verdict of 4-3 and not of 3-2 bench,” saying that he was ready to go home a thousand times, but would not shatter confidence of members of the house ever.

He said if the PTI leadership was ready for the same day elections, then the coalition government’s delegation had been constituted to hold talks with them. But, he said, they (PTI) would have to be accountable about the alleged NAB-Niazi nexus. They would have to be answerable why the sister of Asif Zardari was arrested, why the daughter of Nawaz Sharif was arrested from jail, he added.

“Whether it is case of Maulvi Tamizuddin, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Yusuf Raza Gilani or Nawaz Sharif, unless such characters (Saqib Nisar) are not taken to task, securing justice will remain a pipe dream,” he added.

He said the government and the parliament should be allowed to perform their responsibilities which they are supposed to do. He said they were sent to jail in baseless cases, but Imran Niazi was given eight bails in eight minutes. “This is big question for judiciary that a person is given eight bails in eight minutes and he is asked to participate in proceedings of courts through video-link, but arrest warrants are issued if we arrive late in courts,” he said adding that these were double standards which had destroyed the justice system in the country.

He said the suo motu law would have to be corrected, but the apex court said that the law correcting it would remain suspended, which was tantamount to undermining sanctity of the house, he added.

JUIF parliamentary leader Asad Mahmood, speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, said they also support solution to issues through talks, but first Imran Khan should apologise to the National Assembly for abusing the Parliament.

On the other hand, the first round of talks, which lasted for two hours, was held at committee room number three of the Parliament House, and the two sides would meet again on Friday (today).

The government delegation consisted of Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Yusuf Raza Gilani, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, and Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar.

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

The first round of talks was held in a cordial atmosphere, according to sources, and the two sides presented their conditions for taking forward the talks’ process. The PTI delegation informed the government about party Chairman Imran Khan’s stance on elections and about how the elections should be conducted.

Yusuf Raza Gilani told the media after the meeting the ruling parties would consult leaders of all coalition partners before making a decision. “Whatever is decided, it will be based on input from all parties,” he made it clear. He said the talks would continue on Friday and the PTI would present its demands. “We have no demands,” he added.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said political parties should find solution to problems through talks. He said they started talks’ process to reach a decision, but he warned that they would not allow the process to be used as a tactic to delay May-14 polls.

Qureshi said Imran Khan had given full mandate to the negotiating team for talks, adding that there was consensus among the leadership that a solution could be found through talks. He said the government team said that they wanted some time for consultation among coalition partners. “We are political parties who agree that political issues can be resolved through negotiations, if the intentions are clear and the dialogue is meaningfully pursued,” he added. “We should solve problems while staying within the framework of the constitution. No solution beyond the constitution will be possible,” he said. “We presented our views and they presented their views and the next meeting will be at 3 o’clock on Friday,” he said.

Senator Ishaq Dar said they would move forward with consultation with the coalition partners. He said it was decided in principle that matters should be resolved by staying within the constitution. “Everything has to be decided keeping in mind the interests of the state and the people,” he added.

Sources said the two sides also discussed finding a middle path, but the government team insisted on election to all assemblies on the same day.

The PTI team demanded that its MNAs, who got relief from the Sindh Assembly, should be allowed to attend the NA proceedings, and that assemblies should be dissolved in May to hold general election in July.

According to sources, the PTI put three conditions during the negotiations before the government negotiating team. Their first condition was to dissolve the Sindh and Balochistan and National Assembly before July for a elections on the same day; second condition was that a new constitutional amendment should be made, so that the election could go beyond 90 days, and for the constitutional amendment, the government would have to withdraw the resignations of PTI; and the third condition was that if the government wanted to bring the budget in June, then the elections should be held by July and August, as the process could not go beyond that. Sources said the PTI did not want dissolution of the National Assembly go beyond July.