PTI softens tone after government offers talks


ISLAMABAD: After the government signalled that it could be open to talks with the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the latter cautiously reciprocated on Tuesday, saying that if both sides could sit across the table, the party would consider deferring its call for shutdowns in major urban centres. That this exchange of positive gestures came from the chief negotiators on both sides makes it even more significant. In an interview on a private TV channel, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that if talks resumed by Dec 6, “I can personally request party chairman Imran Khan to postpone his call to blockade Faisa­labad on Dec 8”.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who led the government team negotiating with the PTI, said — on the same TV show — that if the PTI gave them the assurance that it would not go ahead with the shutdown call, “I will reach out to the prime minister so that talks can be resumed by Dec 6 or 7”.

Nawaz Sharif is currently in London and is expected back on Dec 6.

“We are caught up in the appointment of a new chief election commissioner, which has to be finalised by Dec 5,” Mr Dar said, adding that there would be no delays as far as the government was concerned.

Qureshi says party may defer Faisalabad strike if talks begin by Dec 6

When asked what her party’s stance would be if the government contacted them before Dec 8, PTI Informa­tion Secretary Shireen Mazari told Dawn the party could defer its shutdown call for Faisalabad, “depending on how the talks go”. This is also what Mr Qureshi said during his interview, she added.

There is every possibility that both sides would be back on the negotiation table soon, but it remains to be seen whether the government accepts PTI’s demand for a thorough investigation of the 2013 general election’s results through a judicial commission.

“Personally speaking, I don’t see any breakthrough happening in the near future. The government is in no mood to heed PTI’s demands that a judicial commission determine whether the last elections were rigged and if they prove to be, the PM must resign.

On the other hand, the PTI does not look like settling for anything less than what it has demanded: a thorough probe assisted by officials from intelligence agencies and a firm commitment from the government that in case rigging was proved, the prime minister would resign.

The ruling party member Dawn spoke to foresaw more confrontation in the days to come.

When asked, a PTI insider said the party leadership was absolutely clear that its survival was contingent upon proving that the current PM was the primary beneficiary of ‘flawed elections’.