PTI accuses govt of insincerity in talks

PTI lawmakers engage in verbal spats with PML-Q’s Cheema

Rizwan Shehzad   May 17, 2024
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Omar Ayub. PHOTO: FILE


In the midst of a political stalemate, the opposition PTI asserted on Thursday that the ruling coalition's purported commitment to dialogue lacked sincerity, noting that not a single government leader had initiated talks with either its chairman or the opposition leader in the National Assembly. They dismissed statements about reconciliation as mere theatrics.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the PTI MNAs, which have now been declared as members of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), regretted that President Asif Ali Zardari and the government frequently said there was a need to reduce polarisation but had taken no practical steps till now to achieve this objective.

Surprisingly, the PTI openly admitted its ‘mistakes’ of the past, saying that it had learnt its lesson and it was time for others to do so as well.

The statement that the government was not serious in holding talks has come at a time when the PTI leadership initially preferred to talk to the security establishment instead of fellow politicians and then set tough conditions for sitting across the table.

Since the general elections in February this year, the government and opposition benches have been chiding each other over “stealing mandate” in recent and past polls.

Thursday was no different as PTI MNA Atif Khan, while referring to Zardari’s speech in which he had stressed the need for decreasing polarisation in the country, seconded the opinion but reminded that it was the president and government’s job to reduce it.

He added that if the PTI proposed to hold talks, then it had to face embarrassing statements that the party was seeking an NRO (amnesty) or the release of its leadership from jail.

“It’s important to reduce polarisation but for that one has to take some practical steps instead of only giving statements in the media that the government is ready for talks.”

Atif continued that officially, not a single leader from the government had contacted PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan or NA Leader of the Omar Ayub verbally or in writing for initiating a process of negotiations.

“This is not the way to hold talks,” Atif regretted, adding that an atmosphere was needed to be created for engaging in a process of dialogue.

“Talks can’t take place when the PTI is not allowed to stage a rally or even hold corner meetings even after the elections are over,” the opposition MNA regretted.

He maintained that PTI leaders from the very top to the union council level were arrested a day or two before it announced staging a rally anywhere.

 “How do you expect to end polarisation in these circumstances,” he asked.

“We don’t see any seriousness [in reconciliatory efforts].”

In the same breath, Atif while claiming that the PTI was not eager to hold talks in these circumstances urged the government not to put up an act on TV talk shows if it was not genuinely interested in negotiations.

Read Bilawal blasts PTI for courting ‘interference’

Throwing down the gauntlet, Atif urged the NA speaker to make the ruling PML-N pledge that no PTI leader would be arrested in Punjab if it announced a rally.

Speaking about foreign policy, Atif asked if any government was ever able to make it in parliament.
Talking about the state of democracy, Atif conceded that the PTI had made mistakes during its rule and questions were raised over the 2018 general elections.

However, he added that if there were 10% doubts about the 2018 polls, there were 100% over the ones held this year.

“I admit that we couldn’t do the things in 3.5 years that should have done because of our weaknesses or being in a coalition,” Atif said before reminding that two or three parties were ruling Pakistan for roughly the last four decades.

“I am ready to take responsibility for 10% of the mistakes,” Atif told the House. “But the ones sitting on the treasury benches must take responsibility for 90% of the mistakes as only then we can move ahead.”

Otherwise, he added, neither reconciliation could take place nor matters would proceed further.
The MNA further admitted that the PTI had learnt from its one-time mistakes but the PML-N, PPP and MQM-P were repeating the same ones for the umpteenth time.

On media freedom, he regretted that PTI founding chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan’s name or photo was not allowed on TV.

He further lamented the ban on social media platform X.

He added that the defence minister lectured everyone, but was still using X.

Commenting on Atif’s speech, PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema said on one hand, the PTI spoke about reconciliation but one the other, it only wanted to talk to the army chief or senior military officers.

He recalled that ex-spymaster Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed helped the then PTI government to complete its quorum in the assembly during a budget session.

The House also witnessed harsh statements between Cheema and PTI leaders, including Zartaj Gul.
Apart from heated arguments with different PTI leaders, Cheema reminded the PTI that Imran had revealed on record how quorum was completed in the NA during his party’s regime.

The PML-Q MNA further sarcastically asked who sat in the speaker’s room during the sessions before answering himself that it was not a “senior ranking officer”

“They all know it,” he added, saying he could reveal further details on the matter.

Chiding the PTI on claiming that it had learnt its lesson, Cheema said he was declaring it on oath that his MPAs were thrown in the party’s jeeps before the 2018 elections.

However, he continued that he could name the officers who did it.

He criticised the PTI for saying that it was responsible for only 10% of the mistakes.

“The PTI was 100% wrong. It came into power 100% on ‘crutches’ and that is the reason why it couldn’t deliver.”

Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party’s (IPP) Gul Asghar Khan Baghoor from Khushab while speaking on the president’s address drew the House’s attention towards the smuggling of gemstones from Pakistan to India via different countries.

He said Pakistan’s entire exports were roughly $25 to $30 billion, but India’s export of gemstones alone was around $45 billion.

Baghoor regretted that parliament could not enact any law to curb this practice yet.


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