ISLAMABAD: The federal government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif heaved a sigh of relief on Thursday as both the march leaders reluctantly agreed to start a dialogue on the heels of a subtle yet firm advice from the powerful military establishment of the country to cool down the political temperature.
As the twin marches held their ground all day on Thursday at the respective venues along the Constitution Avenue, PTI Chief Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri continued back-to-back addresses to the respective crowds. Both parties meanwhile nominated separate committees that held initial parleys with respective government teams at different locations and presented their demands. But till the filing of this report, the insistence of both the parties on resignation of the prime minister as a pre-requisite remained the major roadblock in progress of the dialogue. The government side refused to accept the two demands of the PTI that related to resignation of the prime minister and dissolution of the National Assembly for holding fresh elections.
PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri told media and workers in the night hours that there was no headway in the talks yet as demands had been presented to the government. He urged the government side to be flexible in their approach as the demands forwarded were genuine. PAT President Raheeq Abbasi also said the first round of talks remained inconclusive. The government team told PAT leaders that they would come up with the proper reply after consulting with prime minister.
Parleys with Dr Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tahreek (PAT) kickstarted in the evening as soon as a ministerial committee comprising Ahsan Iqbal and Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch along with opposition committee’s members Ijazul Haq and Haider Abbas Rizvi arrived to meet the PAT delegation comprising party’s President Raheeq Abbasi, Gandapur, Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali, former Punjab Governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar and others. As the parleys kick-started near Dr Qadri’s container at the sit-in venue, PAT leaders handed them a long list of demands which included resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. But the most important point in the PAT demands was an independent inquiry into the Model Town tragedy and registration of its FIR against the nominated government, administration and Police high-ups.
Meanwhile, PTI team comprising Party President Javed Hashmi, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, Asad Umar, Arif Alvi also met with government side comprising Punjab Governor Ch Sarwar, federal ministers Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Abdul Qadir Baloch at a secret location of a local hotel away from the media glitter. PTI is said to have presented its six-point demands agenda to the government ministers already spelled out by party chief Imran Khan to his workers at the sit-in venue. No breakthrough was reported in the meeting even late in the night as both committees kept on consulting their respective leadership through telephonic contacts.
Earlier in the day, the march leaders kept sticking to their grounds while demanding resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a pre-requisite, and later on, as top agenda item for initiation of talks, but the government ministers in the background interactions hoped the tedious and unpredictable parleys would be able to succeed through a mutually acceptable give and take. Elections reforms, audit of the 2013 elections, and investigations of alleged rigging through Supreme Court commission with guarantees from the military’s side is on the table, said a member of the opposition committee involved in the parleys.
The twin march leaders meanwhile continued to occupy respective venues on the Constitution Avenue as they delivered fiery speeches while putting up a brave face in front of their workers and supporters rallying behind them since start of the March on August 14 from Lahore. Behind the scene contacts between government and the military leadership went into full swing as Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met army chief General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi – his third such meeting within a week’s time. Sources said Sharif was advised to work for an early resolution of the current political impasse through a meaningful dialogue with PTI and PAT. The government, it was learnt, had earlier made it clear that PM Sharif’s resignation demand by the march leader was however non-negotiable. The Punjab CM is learnt to have assured the military leadership that Premier Nawaz Sharif was ready to address all grievances of the march leaders, especially of PTI.
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