Govt appears to backtrack on talks with PTI

ISLAMABAD, April 17 : The ruling PML-N on Sunday categorically ruled out holding talks with the PTI on the issue of elections or anything else – dashing the hopes of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which tried a day earlier to initiate negotiations between the government and the opposition to break the existing political impasse.

Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb told that there would be no negotiations with the PTI, a day after Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced that neither his party — the JUI-F — nor any other constituent of the alliance would hold talks with it.

The Maulana had declared PTI Chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan as an “unnecessary element” in the country’s politics.

“No talks,” the information minister said in response to several questions about holding a dialogue with the PTI on elections as well as the efforts being made by different political parties, including the PPP, which was not a part of the PDM, to bring the two sides to the negotiating table.

The minister was asked about the PML-N’s stance on the talks after the PPP had decided to keep the doors of negotiations open.

However, the PDM chief slammed the door shut on the PTI at a news conference on Saturday evening, saying different stakeholders were pushing for negotiations with the party but that would not happen.

The stance of the PML-N, which is a main part of the PDM, has emerged on the heels of JI chief Sirajul Haq’s separate meetings with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Imran that were seen as a major thaw in political tensions.

Siraj’s meetings with Shehbaz and Imran were seen as a major breakthrough by the observers yet the PTI insiders had termed it nothing but a move for “media consumption” only.

Soon after the JI chief’s meetings with the bigwigs, senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry had said that talks between his party and those in power – irrespective of whoever sat among them, and at a time when the PTI leaders were being arrested left and right – seemed pretty pointless as the intent of the government was very clear by the virtue of its actions.

Fawad reiterated his stance on Sunday as he reportedly said the government should create an atmosphere for talks because the arrest of party leaders and negotiations could not take place at the same time.

On the one hand, he said, Siraj came to Imran’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to discuss about initiating talks while on the other, PTI Sindh Chapter President Ali Zaidi was arrested.

Nevertheless, the PTI on Sunday formed a three-member committee to negotiate with the ruling coalition over the ongoing political crisis on holding polls in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as deciding the date for general elections in the country.

The PTI’s three-member committee comprises Pervez Khattak, Ejaz Chaudhry, and Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed.

Similarly, the PPP also constituted a three-member body comprising Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani, Federal Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar and PM’s Adviser on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira to persuade allies as well as the PTI to sit together for talks so that the dust could be settled for the time being.

With the PPP as well as the PTI forming the committees and the PML-N and PDM chief ruling out talks, the political impasse seems to be far from coming to an end.

Although, PM Shehbaz has repeatedly held out an olive branch to the PTI in the past, this time around, it is moving in the opposite direction.

On the eve of the country’s diamond jubilee, the premier had offered talks to his bitter rival Imran, renewing his proposal of sitting together to reach a consensus on a “charter of economy” in the greater national interest amid the worsening economic crisis.

The offer had come a day after President Dr Arif Alvi had offered his office to broker a dialogue between PM Shehbaz and former premier Imran.

However, the verbal offers could never extend beyond words as had happened on several other occasions.

Several PML-N and PPP leaders were approached for their comments on the proposal as well as the refusal to hold talks but they did not respond.

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