PTI chief’s talks offer draws a blank

FAISALABAD, May 29 : Imran Khan’s invitation for dialogue has been met with a lack of response, as two prominent ministers in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet have said that the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) crossed the redline on May 9.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that there could be no negotiations with Imran because he went too far in conspiring against the military at the behest of foreign forces.

Violence erupted across the country on May 9, following the arrest of Imran in a graft case. The rioters attacked several government buildings, including sensitive military installations.

“No Pakistani could ever imagine what happened on May 9,” Asif told reporters in Sialkot. “Imran went too far that there can be no talk with him. PTI people say that Imran Khan is their red line. Our red line is our country and its defenders,” he added.

“Today, people are leaving him [Imran] because they cannot shoulder the burden of his mistakes anymore,” Asif said, adding: “More people will leave Imran. Imran should add these more names to the negotiating team so that if someone leaves, he can be replaced.”

The minister lamented that the so-called political leaders were attacking the defence installations. He warned that those having “conditional loyalty” to Pakistan would not hesitate to compromise the defence of the country.

Asif said that the spirit of defending the homeland was being challenged by power-hungry politician, adding that Imran weakened the country economically and was now trying to weaken its defence.

Asif endorsed Rana Sanaullah’s statement in the wee hours of Sunday that the intelligence agencies had intercepted a call through which it transpired that the PTI had hatched disturbing plot to malign law-enforcement institutions.

Asif told reporters that the mistakes Imran had made in the last 14 months – since his departure from the government through a no-confidence motion – were his own. “What Rana Sanaullah has said is hundred per cent correct,” he said.

Asif’s views were echoed in a speech by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah at a rally to mark Youm-e-Takbeer in Faisalabad. “Imran sowed the seeds of hatred in politics. “We will end this mischief with the power of vote,” Rana Sana said.

Without taking the name of Imran, the minister said that “this person” made “false cases against us but we stayed firm”. He added: These [PTI] people took undue advantage of our civility. They sowed the seeds of hatred among the youth.”

He claimed that the rioters, after ransacking Jinnah House in Lahore on May 9, took away a laptop that contained sensitive information. “These people are no less than [arrested Indian spy] Kulbhushan Jadhav and now they want to negotiate,” he said.

He repeated his earlier allegations that the PTI had plotted attack on a PTI worker’s house and blame it on the government to incite the people. “Pardon is for those whose crime can be forgiven but if the crimes are unforgivable there is no pardon.”

Both Rana Sana and Khwaja Asif paid rich tribute to former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on Youm-e-Takbeer. They also praised the army and the country’s nuclear scientists for the nuclear tests 25 years ago.

Meanwhile, talking to media persons in Lahore, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, who was part of the government’s team for talks with the PTI side earlier this month, said that after all the bullying by Imran, there was no space left for dialogue.

He said that the biggest crime of Imran was that he promoted hate. “A true leader always teaches technology, transparency, economy, love and respect, but Imran taught hate, disrespect, violence and insult to his followers,” he asserted.

Replying to a query about an inquiry into May 9 incidents, the minister said that majority of the miscreants involved in the incidents had been identified and several culprits had been caught red-handed. “Now what will be the purpose of the inquiry commission?”

About the elections, he said that polling would held on time, according to the Constitution, adding that the government would not go even a single day beyond the given date of the election after completing its constitutional tenure.

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