Qureshi blames political witch-hunt for skipping APC

LAHORE: PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday blamed the government’s policy of political witch-hunt for his party’s decision to skip the all-party conference (APC), saying the federal government needed to clarify whether it wanted reconciliation or conflict before inviting them.

“Our party is ready for both reconciliation and conflict. Hence, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif needs to decide before inviting us, whether he wants to level allegations against us or extend an invitation with bona fide intentions,” the former foreign minister said while addressing a news conference.

“The prime minister needs to clarify that he wants to take political revenge or invite the PTI to participate in the APC, as right now, cases are being filed against our party leaders and [the government’s] political opponents are being jailed. Hence, two things are not possible at the same time,” he added.

Qureshi claimed that he was surprised and saddened by the indifference of the prime minister, when the latter had demanded that the PTI-led Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government should present the details of Rs471 billion from its account.

“We are ready to give the details, but is he [PM Shehbaz] ready to present the particulars of the money spent on the Punjab police and the extra-judicial killings when he was the Punjab chief minister?” he asked.

He continued that after the removal of the PTI government through a conspiracy, an “imported” government was imposed on the nation nine months ago.

“We need to analyse whether terrorism has increased or decreased in these nine months. As per our assessments, the incidents of terrorism have gone up and some experts are saying that it has increased by over 52%. This coalition government has to answer for this and not the PTI,” he maintained.

“The change in the focus of the government and its priorities caused the rise in terrorism. The nation longs for an end to terrorism and economic growth, but these things were not in the government’s priorities. The current rulers’ agenda was personal involving the closing of corruption cases filed against them whereas the PTI’s agenda was national,” he added.

Qureshi also castigated the government for accusing the PTI of holding talks with the outlawed terrorist organisation Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

He maintained that in 2013, then premier Nawaz Sharif was the first person to agree to hold talks with the TTP.

“When these talks failed, a successful operation was launched and the terrorists were pushed against the wall. The people and the stakeholders developed a consensus to end terrorism and subsequently, this helped in reducing the terror attacks in the country. During our tenure, a visible decline in terror-related violence was seen,” he claimed.

The former foreign minister highlighted the PTI government’s initiatives, both at the local and global levels, to control terrorism and subsequently bring peace and stability to the region.

He maintained that after a change in the situation in Afghanistan, the PTI government started to look for other options to bring peace to the region.

“At the time of the formation of the Taliban government, many experts had predicted that the influence of India and its RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] would have diminished while the new government in Afghanistan was saying that they would not allow its soil to be used against Pakistan,” Qureshi recalled.

Hence, he added that after developing a consensus among the civilian and military ranks, the negotiations with the TTP were started in good faith.

“An attempt was made to bring an end to the bloodbath, introduce peace and improve the economy [in the region],” he claimed.

The PTI vice chairman pointed out that the opposition leader at that time [Shehbaz] had also agreed to engage in a dialogue with the TTP.

He maintained that the PTI neither had the intention of giving amnesty to those who killed innocent people, nor it thought of overlooking the legal process or undermining the Constitution while holding the talks with the terrorist outfit.

“Today, a question arises, could Shehbaz Sharif refute the fact that the links with the TTP had ceased after April 9 last year [when the PTI government was ousted]. Please don’t deceive the people,” he added.

He also stressed the need for asking  the question whether the security situation in the country had worsened because of the Peshawar mosque bombing or was it already brewing since August last year.

“It is a new wave of terrorism and it remains to be seen who was responsible for it,” he claimed.

The PTI stalwart also castigated Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for not giving attention to the security challenges.

“He [Bilawal] was touring the world, but he did not have the time to visit Kabul. He was having breakfast in Washington while innocent Pakistanis were being killed by terrorists,” he added.

He also criticised Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for bringing the economy to a standstill in a few months.

“The people are paying the price for his [Dar’s] indecisions on economic matters. The government lacks an action plan or a roadmap to address the multitude of economic challenges and hence the people with limited income are bearing the cost. Who is responsible for this mess?” he added.

He said this government had shown a series of slackness and still expected the PTI to join the APC to authenticate its imprudent decisions.

“No, we all need to review its performance. This government is responsible for the killing of innocent people and economic meltdown [in the country],” he maintained.

To a question, he said free and fair elections were the only way to rescue the country from the present turmoil.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) constitutional responsibility is to hold clean and transparent elections and not achieve the desired results,” he claimed.

“It seems that it [ECP] was given a task to deliver ‘desirable results’ and if this happens, irreparable damage will be done to this institution,” he added.

However, he maintained that he was not expecting free and free elections, as it was not possible under the “biased” interim governments in Punjab and K-P.

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