Amid political rhetoric and brinkmanship, a ‘political Jirga’ engaged the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leaders in talks on Tuesday in a fresh push for a negotiated end to a political gridlock gripping the country since August 14.
The ‘political Jirga’ of opposition parties – comprising Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Sirajul Haq, PPP Senator Rehman Malik, GG Jamal, Kalsoom Parveen and Hasil Bizenjo – met PTI chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri Tuesday night in their custom-built shipping containers.
After the interactions, Haq told journalists that the PTI and PAT leaderships have formed their respective committees for another round of talks with the Jirga which he claimed “represents the people of Pakistan as arbitrators and not the PML-N government”.
He claimed that both Imran and Qadri were amenable to talks. “Once the government and the protesting parties reach an agreement, the opposition parties will become guarantors for its implementation since there is a trust deficit between the two sides,” he added.
Senator Rehman Malik, who has been nominated by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for the talks, hoped the government would also show flexibility. “The government should release PAT and PTI workers detained during the ongoing protest movement [as a confidence building measures],” he said.
The negotiations started at a time when a joint session of the Parliament is under way. Lawmakers from Imran Khan’s PTI, who have already resigned from the legislature, will be attending the second day of the session on the directions of the party chairman. PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi is expected to respond to the scathing criticism heaped on his party by the government, its allies and opposition parties.
Apart from the overt talks, behind-the-scene efforts also continued to break the deadlock between the protesting parties and the government. The talks had stalled when the PAT and PTI gave their supporters marching orders towards the Prime House on August 30.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the opposition parties have offered Imran that the Parliament could guarantee that the outcome of a judicial commission on the alleged electoral fraud would be implemented. According to the opposition formula, the judicial commission should have mandate to give a final verdict instead of recommendations and that the government would not influence the institutions linked with probe. They have also given options to ensure impartial inquiry.
In case the commission finds that the elections were massively rigged, the prime minister and his cabinet will resign and new elections will be held. The government team said if systemic rigging was established, fresh polls could be held. The PTI negotiators, however, differed.
The two sides also differed on the mechanism of probe. Under the existing system, if the thumb impressions of voters are verified through NADRA’s biometric database, majority of votes wouldn’t be verified. This doesn’t show who voted for whom since under a constitutional provision secrecy of ballot is protected.
Even to open a probe into the vote audit, a new legal framework is needed since under the existing laws any complaints regarding elections can be filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan within 45 days after the polling day.
Shujaat and Kaira meet Qadri
Before the political Jirga met the PAT and PTI leaderships, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who is ally of Dr Tahirul Qadri, had a meeting with the PAT chief. Shujaat didn’t say what transpired in the meeting. PPP information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira also separately met with Qadri for a second consecutive day.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2014.
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