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Govt-PTI poll parleys to begin shortly under shadow of aspersions

ISLAMABAD, MAY 2: As the negotiating teams of the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are about to hold parleys to end a deadlock over general elections timing, both sides have apparently refused to show flexibility on their stance on the polls.

A three-member delegation of the PTI led by Shah Mehmood Qureshi and comprising Fawad Chaudhary and Senator Ali Zafar has arrived at the Parliament House in Islamabad to hold talks with the government’s team.

The government team comprises former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, Law Minister Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Minister for Commerce Naveed Qamar, Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Kishwar Zahra.

Though both the negotiating teams signalled positive responses after the second round of dialogue saying that they were slowly moving forward on the big question of holding the countrywide election on the same day. It remains to be seen how the two would shed their strong public postures to accommodate each other to clinch the agreement.

However, ahead of the make-or-break talks, statements from both sides of the aisle suggest that there are little chances that talks bear any fruit.

In an interview with a local TV channel earlier today, PTI chief Imran Khan reiterated his stance that he would take to the streets if the PDM-led government did not obey the Supreme Court verdict on the polls delay case.

“They [PDM government] are trying to divide the judiciary. They are trying their best to stop my return to power,” he remarked.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said although he was not hopeful about the talks, he “will sit at the negotiation table [with the PDM team] with good intentions”.

He also accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of trying to “sabotage” the talks on the date of the election, claiming that it was PTI which was showing flexibility.

The government has already termed Khan’s demand for the dissolution of the assembly by May 14 “impractical”, while the PTI has not shown flexibility in this regard.

Responding to PTI’s demand, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah once again reiterated that holding polls on May 14 is not possible.

Sanaullah said all assemblies should be allowed to complete their constitutional term and added that negotiations are not held with conditions attached.

The interior minister said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif allowed the party to hold talks with PTI despite reservations.

During the talks with PTI, the security czar said the PDM’s negotiating team proposed that the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be finalised and the incumbent set-up be allowed to present the upcoming federal budget instead of caretaker setup before going into the elections.

“If these two demands are accepted, then what is the need to dissolve the assemblies just a few weeks before their term,” he remarked.

The date for the election remains elusive. According to sources, the PTI wanted the date for the election to be announced before the budget while the government insisted on a date after that.

The closed-door meetings were held in a cordial environment yet a shadow of doubt continues to linger over the fate of the dialogue and both sides seem to have carved out their political strategies for either scenario adding to the unease.

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