Imran dials down anger, says ready to mend fences

PTI chief ready to talk to anyone for country’s sake

PTI Chairman Imran Khan. PHOTO: Screengrab


Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan reciprocated on Thursday to the talks offer from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, saying that he was “ready to talk to anyone” for the sake of the country, its interests and democracy.

A day after the prime minister extended the proverbial hand of friendship for the nth time, the PTI chief and former prime minister struck a reconciliatory tone amid a war of words going on between the two sides for several months now.

In a tweet earlier, Imran wrote that he had no issue with taking any initiative that served the country’s interests. He added that he was prepared to render any sacrifice for “Pakistan’s development, interests and democracy”.

While speaking in the Senate’s special session marking its golden jubilee celebration on Thursday, the prime minister said, “Let us brighten the future of Pakistan. We should strive and not conspire, remove hurdles instead of creating more, unite the nation instead of creating division.

However, Imran’s willingness to talks should not be construed as if he himself would sit across the table with the prime minister or his key political opponents from the ruling coalition, according to senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry.

While ruling out a direct meeting between the current and former prime ministers for the time being and any discussion on corruption cases, Chaudhry said that the PTI leadership was available for the talks.

If the government was serious in the talks, especially, about simultaneously holding elections across the country, then it should formally make the dialogue offer instead of merely giving statements after statements, he added.

Chaudhry revealed that the PTI involved even President Dr Arif Alvi to mediate between the two sides but it did not yield any result. He accused the government had not created the atmosphere for the talks.

On the one hand, the prime minister was offering talks, while on the other, he was complaining about the past events, he said, referring to Shehbaz’s statement in the Senate in which he “regretted” that Imran deliberately avoided meeting his opponents for years.

Previously, Shehbaz had signalled his readiness to shake hands and sit across the table with the PTI chairman in the national interest, even though Imran had avoided every opportunity to talk to him during his rule.

While referring to Imran’s consistent stance – during his tenure and afterwards -– that he would not shake hands with the incumbent rulers, Shehbaz had said that he would not mind engaging with anyone as the national interest was supreme.

In response, Imran tweeted that “I will not hesitate to give any sacrifice for the development, interests and democracy of Pakistan,” adding: “In this regard, I am ready to talk to anyone and, in this direction, I am ready to take every step.”

Around the time of Imran’s tweet, Shehbaz again invited “the political leadership” to come together to get the country out of the challenges, stressing that mutual differences would have to be put aside for economic reforms, austerity and other key issues.

When asked what was stopping both the sides, when they were ready for talks, Fawad Chaudhry said that the question was: who should make both the sides sit together? He then added that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) should take the initiative.

Responding to another question, Chaudhry doubted that election would actually take place for Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. Though the dates had been announced for the elections, Chaudhry said: “They are not holding the polls.”

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb did not reply to questions about the offer and whether the statements about talks could be seen as thaw in relations between the two sides. Several PML-N leaders were also approached for comments but none replied.

Imran is currently facing dozens of cases, resisting arrest, as he stayed in his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, while his workers continue to fight pitched battles with the police and Rangers over the past few days.

Meanwhile, Imran was asked about violence outside his residence during his media talk with journalists in Lahore. The former prime minister said that it was confusing that when he was willing to appear before court, why the whole drama was being created.

“I have never refused to appear before a court; however, I have been summoned at a court on which I have security concerns,” he said, adding that he would appear before the Islamabad court on March 18, as he believed in the rule of law and its implementation.

He alleged that the police and Rangers came near his residence to arrest him and there was a plan to torture and kill him after the arrest. He thanked the people, including the party workers, “who joined us in the struggle for ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ [true freedom]”.

Imran warned that the PTI would launch a movement if the elections were delayed beyond the 90-day constitutional time-frame. “We would not allow the violation of the Constitution at any cost,” he added.

Later addressing prospective PTI candidates for upcoming elections, Imran lamented the police and ranger brutality in Zaman Park, saying that tear gas canisters and bullets were fired at unarmed workers of his party.

“It was very unfortunate that they even fired bullets at an armed female party worker. It was the result of giving command of the police to criminal and corrupt officials,” he charged, referring to the inspector general and the capital city police officer (CCPO).

He questioned what was the Rangers doing, when it was a political issue. However, he praised the bravery of the “PTI workers”. He added: “Today, the nation has recognised the faces of the enemies of Pakistan and decided not to bow down to anyone.”

PTI chief disclosed that he was ready to turn himself in to the police, but he was told that things were getting out of hand. “I was ready by taking my bag to court arrest because I did not want to see the blood of my workers,” he said,

“But the party workers stood in front of me and told me that they would face wrath of the police and Rangers but would not allow me to court arrest. They had fear that I would also face the same treatment, meted out to Shahbaz Gill and Azam Khan Swati.”

He disclosed that five more cases had been registered against him and soon a century of cases against him would be completed. However, he added that all those cases were unsubstantiated.

“Rest assured, whenever these cases will be heard, nothing illegal will be found,” Imran told the polls aspirants. “I am ready to give this in black and white that if they proved anything illegal against him, I will quit politics,” he added.

He urged the prospective PTI candidates not to stand against the party decision. “I do not have any relative or friend in the party. I will personally conduct interviews and distribute tickets among candidates in a transparent manner.”

The PTI chairman said that attempts were being made create unrest to jeopardies elections. He warned that use of force against the country’s biggest and the only federal party would create public resentment.

“We did not learn even after the fall of Dhaka and trying to repeat the history by deploying military and paramilitary forces [against the PTI]. People consider the armed forces their protectors but such action will only attract hatred and weaken the forces.”

In the talks with the journalists, Imran was also asked about the former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. The former prime minister replied that Elahi had been tested positive for coronavirus.


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