All eyes on final round of talks between PTI, govt

The Nation  |  May 02, 2023

The third and final round of talks between the PTI and the PDM-led government started on Tuesday at the Senate Secretariat amid hopes of a thaw.

The schedule for the meeting had been modified to proceed talks at 9pm instead of 11am.

On April 28, as the second round of talks concluded with hopes of a thaw, the negotiators had said the third and final round would take place on Tuesday at 11am.

Negotiations come as the top court had recommended both sides to engage in dialogue to develop consensus besides warning the government that its order for holding polls on May 14 would be effective if both sides failed to reach an agreement.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry had claimed PML-N bigwigs Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal were sabotaging negotiations.

Speaking to a Dunya News program, he said we had been under immense pressure to call off negotiations after the law-enforcement agencies raided PTI president Chaudhry Parvez Elahi's house but PTI chief Imran Khan asked us to continue the process. “The government said it had no link to the raid,” he added.

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Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in a telephonic conversation with PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, expressed his sorrow at the breach of the sanctity of Mr Elahi’s house. “Mr Elahi’s house was raided by Punjab interim government and not the centre,” he clarified. 

Earlier, sources had said the government did not seem to be agreeing to the PTI's demand of holding election in May as it was not possible to do so under tight economic conditions. "The government also cited its negotiations with the IMF," sources added.

Upon this, the PTI suggested the government to dissolve the National Assembly soon after presenting the budget, sources said. "It also suggested to announce the date of dissolution before presenting the budget," sources added.

However, if the PTI showed flexibility, the government could go for elections in August, sources told.

The PTI, on the other hand, hinted at agreeing to the demand of holding elections in August saying it sensed flexibility in the government's approach towards the matter, sources revealed.

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The PTI put three conditions before the government; dissolve the NA and other provincial assemblies, amend the constitution to hold general elections simultaneously in the country that required the NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to take back the PTI MNA's resignations, and hold general elections in July, sources said.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said talks proceeded in a good environment. "We will put forward two suggestions placed by the PTI before the allies," he added. We saw improvement, he said, and no deadlock on both sides.

Mr Qureshi, speaking to the media after the meeting, said the meeting incepted with the mention of arrests of PTI activits. "We will travel to Lahore tomorrow and will take Mr Khan into confidence," he added.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said they had placed their suggestions before the government. "However, it is to be noted that 33 PTI activists at PTI chief Imran Khan's appearance before the IHC were arrested without any pliable reason," he added.

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He went on to say that arrests would sabotage the process of negotiations. "If you want matters to settle, arrests must be stopped," he added. PTI leader Farrukh Habib, he said, was barred from travelling abroad.

Mr Khan, at an informal conversation with journalists during his appearance at the IHC, had said his party would initiate talks with the government only if the ruling coalition was ready to immediately dissolve the assemblies and go for elections.

First Round of Talks

The first round of talks was held at the Senate Secretariat where Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry and Ali Zafar represented the PTI while the government side was represented by Mr Dar, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Ayaz Sadiq, Mr Gilani, Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, Kishwar Zahra and Muhammad Abubakr.

Sources said the PTI had stressed dissolution of the NA as the PTI wanted the lower house to be dissolved no later than July.

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Mr Qureshi, while speaking to the media, said political problems could be addressed with good intentions. "The solution will be sought by following the constitutional provisions," he added. The PTI wanted to move forward, he said, with country's progress as the topmost agenda.

He went on to say that the government still needed time to deliberate. "We suggested them to take time and come back with a proposal," he added.

Mr Gilani said, "We would take a final decision after taking all the parties on board," adding that talks were held, he said, in a good environment.

"We have to review the matters while remaining in the ambit of the constitution," he added. "We have no demands," said Mr Dar.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had agreed to start talks with the PTI on Thursday.

Sources said Attorney General Mansoor Awan called on the PM and apprised him of the court proceedings. The JUI-F would not become a part of the negotiations, sources added.

Later, federal law minister Azam Nazir Tarar and Senator Ali Zafar had also come in contact with each other.

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