Calming the storm: Govt forms committees for talks with PTI, PAT

Nisar says the ruling party is ready to listen to all ‘constitutional’ demands.

Abdul Manan/irfan Ghauri August 17, 2014


Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday signalled the ruling party’s eagerness to listen to all ‘constitutional’ demands put forth by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) by announcing two separate committees to negotiate with them.

“The federal government is willing to listen to each and every constitutional demand of PTI and PAT… as a goodwill gesture, we have decided to constitute two separate committees to negotiate with them,” he told a news conference in Islamabad. The minister said the panels, which will comprise leaders of various parties, will be formally announced and start their work from today (Monday).

Nisar pointed out that despite provocations by the PTI and PAT, the government exercised restraint and facilitated the long marchers. “We allowed them to stage their sit-in where they wanted to and provided them security… Rs1 billion have been spent on their security.”

He expressed amazement over PTI chief Imran Khan’s call for civil disobedience. “Today, you are advocating civil disobedience… what if tomorrow, when your party is in power, your opponents launch a civil disobedience campaign against you.”

“Civil disobedience is less to do with the government. It is more about the state,” he said.  “I request Imran Khan not to make the nation suffer.”

Alleging that the long marches were aimed at diverting the nation’s focus from the military operation in North Waziristan, Nisar urged the PTI and PAT chiefs to help unite the nation at this crucial juncture instead of pursuing the path of confrontation and violence.

“It is not a question of the government’s future, but the future of our state, democracy and institutions,” he said. “If a precedent is set this time, a more violent group may try and oust a government the next time.”

High-level PML-N meeting

The decision to hold talks with PTI and PAT leaders came after a high-level meeting, held to chalk out a strategy for resolving the ongoing political crisis.

Sources privy to the meeting said participants discussed a wide range of related issues, including the Azadi and Inqilab rallies, and the Lahore court order for registering cases against the premier and 21 other key political figures and officials.

During the course of the meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif offered to resign if it would help resolve the political crisis in the country, PML-N sources told The Express Tribune. However, the possibility of Prime Minister Nawaz quitting office is ‘out of the question’ for PML-N, they said.

The party is willing to discuss all demands put forth by PTI and PAT apart from this one, one source in the ruling party said. Nisar’s announcement that the government is willing to listen to all ‘constitutional’ demands of the two parties reflects this stance.

According to sources, the interior minister – who has been tasked with spearheading the negotiations with PAT and PTI – was given a week’s time to resolve differences with the protesting parties. He was also directed to refrain from employing heavy-handed measures against the marchers in the capital.

Party insiders said Nisar’s efforts to bridge the divide have been endorsed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Meanwhile, Railways Minister Saad Rafique has been tasked with soliciting MQM’s assistance in order to convince PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri to extend his 48-hour deadline. Reportedly, Rafique has approached MQM chief Altaf Hussain to discuss the issue.

The meeting also discussed the recent Supreme Court ruling which restrains state functionaries from taking any extra-constitutional steps in the current political scenario. Weighing in on rigging allegations, sources said that the prime minister would call on political leaders from Sindh and Balochistan today (Monday) to discuss the issue.

Regarding the Lahore sessions court ruling, legal experts gave a briefing to Prime Minister Nawaz and other meeting participants. According to sources, PML-N leaders found the verdict to be one-sided since no one from the party was summoned or issued a notice.

On the other hand, PML-N leaders assessed the report of the judicial commission probing the Model Town incident. Sources said the party leadership believed the findings of the probe to be inconclusive and misleading, and has decided to solicit the services of legal experts over in this regard. The premier and Punjab chief minister proposed that a committee comprising legal experts, the home and law secretaries revisit the report and propose suggestions, they added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th,2014.


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