Imran Khan returns to negotiating table; party lawmakers resign
In a two-pronged strategy, 34 lawmakers of Imran Khan’s party today resigned to step up pressure on the Nawaz Sharif government but followed up with an offer to resume talks after the failed first round. For the second time since it mobilised thousands of supporters for anti-government protests in Islamabad demanding Sharif’s resignation, the core committee of Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) met and discussed the current crisis.
The meeting took place after senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi handed over the resignations, including that of Khan, to Secretary of the National Assembly Muhammad Riaz, mounting more pressure on the beleaguered government. The resignations do not affect the stability of the government which enjoys a majority with ruling PML-N having 190 members in a House of 342. Khan’s PTI is the third largest party in the National Assembly.
Following the core committee meeting, Qureshi told reporters that “PTI is ready for talks.” After one round of talks on Wednesday both Khan’s PTI and cleric Tahirul Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) had suspended dialogue with the government. Till now, Khan has been insisting that talks can take place only after Sharif, who has been in power for over 15 months, resigns. The anti-government protests in Pakistan are in their second week with thousands of supporters of PTI chief Khan and firebrand cleric Qadri camping outside the Parliament building here.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said containers in place for security reasons in the capital will not be removed, rejecting the demand of protesters. “Protesters are not permitted and will not be permitted to go beyond containers. The containers will not be removed at any cost,” he said. The minister confirmed that PTI had agreed to talks.
After PTI’s core committee meeting, television channels quoted PTI leader Naeemul Haq as saying that it was possible that the Prime Minister could depart on a long leave until a probe into electoral rigging is completed. Haq said that the core committee discussed matters in detail with legal advisers. However, PTI’s senior leader Arif Alvi soon denied that the party was willing to show flexibility in its demand for the Sharif’s resignation. Alvi said “another window of negotiations” had now opened and that the government should seize the opportunity otherwise the impasse might linger on.