To mark the beginning of crucial talks, the government and opposition have exchanged key proposals aimed at bringing in a caretaker setup to oversee fresh parliamentary elections.
Top leaders from both the governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and principal opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) told The Express Tribune on Sunday the exchange had taken place through ‘unspecified’ informal channels.
“It is in an early stage…we haven’t had any formal meeting so far. All I can confirm at the moment is that some back and forth is taking place. Nothing more than that,” said a PML-N leader, speaking on the telephone from Lahore.
One media report suggested earlier in the day that that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf would announce the roadmap for fresh elections on August 14 – and that elections are likely to be held in the first week of November.
National Assembly Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Raja Zafarul Haq, Khawaja Asif, Ishaq Dar and Pervez Rashid represented the opposition party at talks while Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, Farhatullah Babar and Jehangir Badar were the government negotiators, according to the report.
But both PPP and PML-N leaders denied having any meeting, saying it would take some time before they could hold a detailed discussion on proposed plans.
“All I can tell you at the moment is that we by and large have an understanding to talk about anything related to elections…but no meeting has been held so far. We will have to go a long way before starting a formal process,” said PPP’s Raja Riaz, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly.
PML-N spokesperson Senator Parvez Rashid also denied any meeting, saying, “Chaudhry Nisar is in London with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif is in Europe, I have been in Lahore the whole day…I don’t know who attended the meeting on our part.”
The PPP, according to its leaders, wants the PML-N to help it select an individual for the caretaker setup who would not write a letter to Swiss authorities.
The PPP would also like the opposition party to allow at least a couple of months to hand over power to the caretaker setup. Party leaders say this is because they want to implement a ‘crash’ economic plan to overcome power outages and unemployment.
On the other hand, one PML-N official said Nawaz Sharif had asked President Zardari to allow its party leader to write a ‘harmless’ letter to Swiss authorities to settle the confrontation ahead of the transition process.
Another proposal, according to the same official, was to hold both parliamentary and local bodies’ elections together, although a PPP member said it would not be possible logistically.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.
More in PakistanIs Aisamul Haq single again?