Pakistan: Tensions ease as PTI agrees to resume talks
Posted on Aug 22 2014 | IANS
Islamabad, Aug 22 : Tensions in the Pakistani political landscape eased Friday with the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party agreeing to return to the negotiating table as the Senate or the upper house of parliament backed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Senior PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad that his party was now ready to engage in negotiations with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led government, Dawn online reported.
He said the government had already started removing containers blocking routes in Islamabad where several thousand supporters of the PTI and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) are staging sit-in protests since Aug 14 to press for the resignation of the prime minister, claiming that the 2013 parliamentary election was "rigged".
Qureshi also said that an FIR has also been registered against the culprits who earlier attacked his Multan residence. He said that he would soon contact Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar to further play his part in facilitating the talks with the government.
Following a meeting of the PTI's core committee, television channels quoted party leader Naeemul Haq as saying that it was possible that the prime minister could depart on long leave until a probe into electoral rigging was completed.
"The constitution allows the prime minister to go on a long leave," he said. "We hope we will meet the government delegation soon."
However, another senior PTI leader, Arif Alvi, made it clear that the party was not willing to show flexibility in its demand for the prime minister's resignation.
"There is no flexibility. Our stance is still the same as our original position: that the prime minister should resign and then the government can consider our other five demands," he said.
"When the government's negotiating team comes, we will see their response and then react. But there is no such decision as yet from the core committee," he added.
Earlier Friday, members of the National Assembly (NA) or lower house of parliament belonging to the PTI submitted their resignations to the parliament's secretariat as part of their protest.
PTI leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Arif Alvi and Shireen Mazari submitted the resignations of all 34 MNAs to the NA speaker's office, including that of chairman Imran Khan.
On a day of rapid developments, the country's Senate passed a resolution rejecting the demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif and the dissolution of the assemblies.
The NA has already adopted a resolution in support of the prime minister and the Senate resolution has given a further boost to Nawaz Sharif's position.
Senator Saeed Ghani of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party moved the resolution against the demands for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the dissolution of the assemblies and was supported by all other parties, Xinhua reported.
No party in the house opposed the move that is seen as important for the prime minster, who has offered talks to the leaders of the protestors.
In another related development, both the PTI and PAT parties contended during a Supreme Court hearing Friday that the anti-government protests in Pakistani capital's Constitution Avenue area were peaceful demonstrations, in accordance with the constitutional rights of citizens.
The two parties filed their response before the apex court on a petition challenging their sit-in in the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, according to Dawn online.
The political campaigns launched by the two parties been have condemned by the legal fraternity in Pakistan, including bar associations across provinces, for putting the parliamentary and democratic system in the country in peril.
During the hearing before a five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, the PTI contended that it was the constitutional right of the party to hold protests.
The party said the measures adopted by the party were within the parameters of the Constitution.
However, the court observed that the country was presently "in the midst of a political impasse".
The PAT's counsel assured the court that the party favoured the rule of law.
"It is a peaceful demonstration, we are not blocking roads, neither are we stopping anybody from entering the buildings and do not intend to cause any damage to the buildings," the PAT counsel said.