Publicly rigid, PTI keen on political engagement with govt

Contrary to its aggressive public posture towards its political opponents, the PTI leadership is keen to get engaged by the government for negotiated solutions of issues like the next election date, electoral reforms, caretaker government and economy.

Background interaction with some senior leaders of the PTI shows that the party may still not go for something like a long march or siege of Islamabad if Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directly offers a dialogue to Imran Khan.

Although, the PTI appears rigid in its precondition of first getting the election date and then entering into any kind of dialogue with the ruling coalition, actually it is quite flexible. “We do want early elections but we know at the same time that when we enter into a dialogue with the other side, the polls can’t be held as per our wishes,” a PTI leader said, adding that the election date can be decided anywhere between March and June next year.

On condition of not being named, he said that still the PTI could avoid going for the long march or siege of Islamabad if Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif publicly offers a dialogue to Imran Khan to discuss the election-related matters, economy, floods, reforms, etc.

It appears from this scribe’s discussion with the PTI leaders that they don’t expect the government to announce an early election date. The PTI awaits engagement with the government but now neither the establishment appears enthusiastic to facilitate the dialogue process between the two nor the government sound interested in talking to Imran Khan.

Presently, only President Dr Arif Alvi is pursuing the agenda of getting the stakeholders to sit on a table but all his background efforts have so far failed to produce any result and for the same reason Imran Khan is now planning for a march on Islamabad. Questions are being raised both about the timing of such a protest by the PTI and whether or not Imran Khan would succeed in getting the desired result — the election date.

It is, however, feared that the PTI’s long march would further the political instability, which in turn would further hurt the country’s economy that is already facing a crisis-like situation. Political engagement between the two sides at this stage would be encouraging for both the political and economic stability of the country.

Next year will be the election year. The PMLN-led ruling coalition insists on completing the tenure whereas Imran Khan wants polls as early as possible. In 2022, general elections are not possible and even if the present government is forced to leave in a month’s time by the PTI, elections would not be held before January next year.

The PTI knows that political engagement means weeks long talks. The talks would follow electoral reforms, which means legislation by Parliament. Any change in the Election Commission of Pakistan, the process for the appointment of caretaker prime minister and then discussions on economy, etc, will take a few months. The PTI would have to return to the National Assembly to make all this possible, otherwise there would be more problems and more confusion for Imran Khan and his party.

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