Monday May 20, 2024

Political parley

By Editorial Board
May 30, 2023

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said in a recent interview that negotiations with Imran Khan can be held if the former prime minister takes “corrective measures”, which includes apologizing to the nation, admitting his mistake and promising not to do anything like what transpired on May 9. PTI Chairman Imran Khan had recently expressed his willingness to negotiate with “anyone who is in power” and nominated seven people from his party for holding negotiations with the incumbent government. That ‘offer’ was categorically rejected by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb who said talks could not be held with those who attacked the state. PML-N supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif also didn’t seem to take to the belated talks offer, tweeting that talks are held with politicians, not with terrorists who incite violence and stoke fire. Dar’s interview came after these statements. He also said that the government was sincere in its talks with PTI before May 9 but the events of that day had changed the situation. And changed it is: we have seen how dozens of PTI members have left the party following the events of May 9 after condemning the events that day unequivocally while many of the party workers are still behind bars. Many have criticized Imran for distancing himself from those who were alleged to have been involved in these attacks. Not only that, the one condemnation issued by the PTI chairman seemed belated, and a bit muted.

Of course, the thinking within whatever is left of the PTI could be that Imran would not wish to admit that his words over the last one year could have led to such violence. Regardless of rejections and pointed tweets, it really is time all political parties had a chat. We have been emphasizing ever since last year’s vote of no-confidence that negotiation and dialogue is the only way out of this mess. And it must be reiterated now as well. Unfortunately, till now Imran Khan has claimed his preference for even talking to terrorists more than what he calls are the crooks running the country. For any serious dialogue, it needs buy-in from all sides. That includes the PTI – more specifically its leader. Instead of nominating teams, Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zadrdari or Bilawal Bhutto Zardari need to talk directly. There is a real chance that if Imran agrees to talks without conditions, they may just take place. For that, he will need to climb down the ladder of indignation and anger and reach out.

Politics is the art of the possible. And at the moment, the best deal for the PTI would be a chance at a dialogue. The inflexibility by Imran Khan ever since the vote of no-confidence and his unwillingness to sit with the government led to a stalemate but after he realized that elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were not going to take place within 90 days, he finally agreed to send PTI representatives to hold talks with the government for general elections on the same day but then did not agree to the government’s suggestion. Now on a much weaker wicket, he has himself made an offer of talks. While it may be tempting to respond with the same indifference that they had received when they had suggested talks, the government should nevertheless agree to a political parley – because the way things are going, there is a grave danger to civil liberties and the democratic process. How long can we sustain this politics?