Breaking the ice: Government, PTI made headway in talks

The two sides vow to resolve their differences in Monday’s meeting


Abdul Manan December 20, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Negotiators from the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) made some headway in their talks on Friday which were focused on the formation of a proposed judicial commission to investigate alleged rigging in last year’s elections and its Terms of References (TORs). The two sides reached a consensus on the former but differed on the later. But they vowed to sort out the issue in their Monday’s meeting.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Minister for Planning and Reform Ahsan Iqbal held an hours-long third round of the talks with PTI’s team comprising Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and Jahangir Tareen.

Appearing before the media after the meeting, both Dar and Qureshi said that they have made progress in Friday’s session and that they would meet again Monday evening for another round of talks. Sources privy the development told The Express Tribune that the government has conceded PTI’s demand for formation of the judicial commission through a presidential ordinance.

Earlier the government was insisting on constituting the commission either through the Pakistan Commission of Enquiry Act, 1956 or through an act of parliament.

Sources said that the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and other political parties represented in parliament believed that the commission should be formed through an act of parliament as for this purpose the PTI would have to return to parliament and vote.

However, sources revealed that the PTI team asked Ishaq Dar that Imran Khan has linked the return of his party’s lawmakers to the assembly with the establishment of the commission. Instead the PTI negotiators suggested the government constitute the commission through a presidential ordinance.

Imran’s party had already rejected the government proposal for the establishment of the commission through the Pakistan Commission of Enquiry Act 1956 fearing that that the inquiry report of such a commission will not be legally binding. The government finally conceded PTI’s demand and said it would also confer with other parties in parliament, sources added.

The second issue which has been a bone of contention between the two sides is TORs or definition of rigging. The PTI wants to see its long list of TORs as a work plan for the judicial commission under which it should hold its inquiry of the 2013 elections.

Sources said that Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt briefed the participants on PTI’s TORs which, according to him, violate Article 225 of the Constitution.  Dar requested the PTI to let the commission probe “was there a systematic and concerted plan or conspiracy to manipulate the 2013 elections for or against any political party in connivance with the Election Commission of Pakistan, former members of the judiciary, returning officers, federal and provincial caretaker governments or any other person?”

On his part, Qureshi told the media that the two sides made some progress in talks. He hoped that they would reach a logical conclusion in the coming week. He further said that the formation of the commission is linked with progress in talks.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2014.

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