Talks end as PTI unwilling to budge on PM resignation

ISLAMABAD: The government-PTI talks ended in a deadlock on Saturday night as the regime in power refused to consider a new proposal that the PM should resign and proceed on a 30-day leave pending a time-bound Supreme Court commission findings of the 2013 elections fraud allegations. 
As PTI insisted this formula was a win-win for the two parties, the government side termed Nawaz Sharif’s resignation non-negotiable, arguing the elected premier of the country cannot be pushed aside through unproven allegations. Behind the closed doors talks, the government side also out rightly rejected dissolution of the assemblies to pave the way for fresh elections.      
“We have given this win-win option to the government through demand that the PM should resign for 30 days,” PTI’s top negotiator Shah Mahmood Qureshi told media after a lengthy meeting with government team at a hotel. 
“The prime minister can get re-elected if the SC commission terms the 2013 elections fair… but it seems success of the whole negotiation hinges on the ego of one person (Nawaz),” he contended, adding that there was a consensus in negotiations that “if the elections were found fraudulent by the SC commission, there should be immediate reconstitution of election commission, neutral caretaker set and fresh elections”.
Qureshi informed, “There was agreement on electoral reforms through parliamentary committee in 45 days; terms of reference for the judicial commission to complete elections fraud investigations within 30 days time; replacement of NDARA, FIA, secretary Election Commission.”   
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar told media after the meeting that the parleys have failed following insistence of the PTI negotiators on the resignation of the PM. 
“We agreed on all points, including appointment of new DG FIA, chairman NADRA, secretary Election Commission…. but their (PTI) insistence on PM to resign was not acceptable… why should the PM be punished for allegations that have not been proven yet?” Sarwar asked. “It has become a matter of someone’s (Imran Khan) ego… they should come up with any logic on this count…this is not going to happen… the PM’s resignation is not on the negotiation table,” PML-N lawmaker Ahsan Iqbal told media. 
“The whole system is being put at stake only because of one person (PM),” PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi contended.  
The government team was led by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar besides federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Pervaiz Rashid and Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch. The PTI side was led by Shah Mahmood Qureshi comprised Javed Hashmi, Jahangir Tareen, Arif Alvi and Asad Umar. 
As the government-PTI talks gridlocked, the government went into action to test nerves of the twin march leaders and their supporters braving harsh weather condition of the capital since August 15 arrival on the heels of a 36-40 hours long march from Lahore on August 14. 
As senior PTI leaders look frustrated and depressed their leader Imran and his likeminded Sheikh Rashid Ahmed kept waiting for an assertive intervention from the military establishment in their favour. Asking the PM to proceed on leave could bring them close to then COAS Gen. Waheed Kakar formula of the 90s when both Premier Sharif and then powerful president Ishaq Khan were asked to resign to end the stalemate. A military coup was avoided.  But times have changed. Will the garrison dent Sharif politically at this moment, and give the PTI chairman the much-needed relief from his tiresomely egoistic campaign to remove him. At what cost?  But this is doable, PTI and PAT calculations say — on the heels of any unrest or grave law and order situation across the country — the government side believes is the last option available for the twin march leaderships. They suspect marchers and associates are thinking on these lines since August 14 as both PAT and PTI repeatedly demonstrate being peaceful. Can all this be achieved till the mid of the coming week is a big ask for the march leaders as PTI’s crowd dwindles? For PTI, PAT, PML-Q and affiliates – a strange amalgam of Sharif haters – dislodging him (PM) will be a moral and political victory. They know that the government strategy is working as parliament, and all the major political parties are backing the current democratic system. And even when Asif Zardari would like to make political inroads into the Punjab province, he would not risk a re-election of Sindh assembly where his party rules. Same is the case with Balochistan, and even PTI’s major coalition partners in KP, the Jamaat-e-Islami, have refused to side with dissolution of KP assembly. 
As the marchers announce indefinite sit-ins amidst visible annoyance in their respective crowds, the government also prepares for a war of nerves blocking entries to the sit-in venues, suspending mobile phone services in Red Zone etc.
Earlier, Imran Khan’s PTI seemed bent on forcing the PML-N government for a mid-term elections in early part of year 2015 through a neutral caretaker set up to be announced by December this year. But then focused on a single point to demand resignation of Premier Sharif. 
“Imran Khan has made PM Sharif’s resignation a matter of his ego…and most of the party leaders who try to convince him to give up this demand at this point of time, often get a very nasty reply from him,” said a senior party leader on anonymity. 
The regime in power is however trying best to bind the fresh elections with outcome of the findings of an already proposed the Supreme Court (SC) commission for audit of 2013 elections, it was learnt as the committees comprising federal ministers met with the PTI committee for the second consecutive day, third time since start of the parleys.  
The government negotiators argue that in case the SC commission gives through audit finds out the 2013 elections were massively rigged, their government would have no option but to resign and face the consequences in the next elections.
But, if the commission findings say there were no massive irregularities as being project by PTI, then the government should continue.    
At the same time, the PML-N regime seems less interested to offer something substantial to Dr Qadri. Negotiations with him did not resume on Saturday. Taking a hard look at the whole scenario coupled with difficulties being faced by his rag-tag, religiously motivated followers, the PAT leadership now fears they might not get anything out of this political gridlock. The situation compelled Dr Qadri to come out of his container and demand registration of an FIR against those nominated by his party in the Model Town killing. Though, the PAT naively desires to rock the PML-N boat through this crisis, but some of its second tiers think Model Town killings FIR and investigation through an apex court commission will be something politically soothing for him and his allies – the PML-Q.

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