ISLAMABAD: As the country’s political and military leadership gathered under one roof to discuss the results and scope of the ongoing North Waziristan military operation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif used the occasion to offer unconditional talks to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, urging him to cancel his long march for the sake of national unity.
“The PTI should cancel its long march and negotiate with the government on its demands, including opening up 10 National Assembly constituencies for recounting,” the premier told the meeting in his opening remarks that were televised live on the state-run and private news channels.
“Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Sirajul Haq met me the other day after meeting Imran Khan and conveyed that the PTI could end its long march if we agree to open up 10 National Assembly constituencies for recounting. We are open to these negotiations and invite Imran Khan to sit with us to negotiate on all contentious issues,” Nawaz Sharif told the National Security Conference (NSC) participants at the Prime Minister’s House Saturday morning.
On Friday, some ministers had claimed that the meeting would have no political agenda, but the PM, in fact, used the occasion to send across his standpoint on national security, foreign policy issues as well as the present political turmoil ahead of the long march of PTI on August 14.
In a surprisingly bold fashion, the PM also directly touched regional foreign policy dynamics and told the participants that the country could not progress in isolation, as it did not enjoy very cordial relations with neighbouring countries, except China.
“We don’t enjoy very cordial relations with Afghanistan. We want to have friendly relations with the new Afghan government,” he said. “Likewise, India is a neighbouring country. We want resolution of disputes with it through talks. Foreign secretaries of the two countries are meeting this month, and we are hopeful things will get back on the right track.”
The PM also used the occasion to indirectly criticise Dr Tahirul Qadri’s latest political overtures, declaring he had no space for elements talking about ‘revolution’ if they want to “bring it through anarchy”.
“What type of revolution they want to bring about? Whose revolution is this?” the premier questioned.
“The country cannot afford confrontational politics at this juncture. The opposition should not adopt the confrontational path. We are ready to sit with the opposition and resolve the differences,” the PM stated.
The prime minister said it was time to leave behind negative politics of the past and join hands for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. He recalled his meetings with political leaders and said they all assured that they would support the system and democracy. “Any political party that needs to survive must learn how to work together,” he said.
He was also appreciative of the role of the opposition and said they also wanted the system to work without any confrontation, as the country was facing several challenges that needed to be urgently addressed.
Recalling initiation of the NWA military operation, the PM opined it had become inevitable after the attack on Karachi airport by militants. “We had no option but to initiate Operation Zarb-e-Azb, as talks with the TTP had collapsed and every segment of society was worried due to the deteriorating law and order situation and militant attacks,” he added. He said the NWA operation was launched through national consensus and it was achieving its goals.
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