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Govt ready for 'give and take' with Imran Khan

08 August, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The federal government seems less inclined to call an All Parties Conference (APC) to discuss the present political turmoil, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his top aides have made up their mind to engage Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in a meaningful political dialogue through the good offices of Jamaat-e-Islami which could lead to acceptance of Imran Khan's key but "acceptable" demands.

Some of PM's advisers think calling an APC will open up a Pandora's box and would give unnecessary leverage to forces outside parliament, Dr Qadri-led PAT being the most prominent. PML-N ministers on Thursday established a telephonic contact with JI Chief in Peshawar to request for a follow-up meeting with Prime Minister Sharif in a day or two, signalling clearly federal government's inclination for a negotiated settlement through his good offices, sources said.

Short of mid-term elections and demand of PM Sharif's resignation, PML-N insiders say, recounting or re-election on four National Assembly constituencies and an independent inquiry into the alleged rigging is most likely to become a pre-agreed agenda item on negotiating table if the government-PTI talks see light of the day.

Another key aspect of Premier's inclination to engage Sirajul Haq as a mediator between government and PTI is JI's stakes in KPK government as a major coalition partner. Interestingly, Sirajul Haq supports Imran Khan's demands regarding 2013 elections rigging, but fiercely opposes dissolution of KPK assembly. "Apart from four constituency opening demand, bargain will be on KPK government survival after August 14.

PML-N might say you don't invade our territory (federal government), we won't invade yours (provincial government)," an important political leader from KPK told this scribe. PM Sharif has recently given a nod on holding a meeting, within days, with Fazlur Rehman led JUI, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao's party and even PTI dissidents at a later stage in case peace overtures with Imran fail.

Fazlur Rehman and Sherpao are all geared up to form a coalition government with PML-N in KPK if JI-PTI coalition breaks at a point of time, it was reliably learnt. PML-N, JI, JUI, Sherpao Qaumi Watan Party are openly opposing dissolution of KPK assembly expected as a last wild card by PTI, and even some minister of KPK, PTI MPAs are opposing the move secretly behind closed doors.

JI chief, Sirajul Haq, on Wednesday conveyed Imran Khan's demands to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif which, sources say, include re-counting or re-election on four National Assembly constituencies, including that of Speaker National Assembly and Federal Railways Minister in Lahore.

Government sources claim it will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Premier as in case of a negotiated settlement leading to a re-election on these constituencies, both key aides might have to tender a resignation. NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who handed a defeat to Imran Khan in Lahore constituency, was a surprise pick of PM after 2013 elections to become Speaker, is said to be ready and conveyed to the leadership of his willingness to tender resignation if directed to do so.

Same stands for Federal Minister Saad Rafiq. The thorny part of Imran's demand to book culprits of the alleged rigging through a Supreme Court judge is still being weighed by the kitchen cabinet of Premier Sharif. Interior Minister Chaurdhy Nisar, who recently bounced back into Sharif's unofficial kitchen cabinet, is said to be in favour of negotiated "give and take" settlement with Imran Khan with whom he enjoys cordial and friendly relations. Sharif is said to be less inclined to listen to hawks like Defence Minister Khawaja Asif who many in the power echelons think misguided the Premier on Musharraf issue and thus created a rift with military establishment.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, though able to maintain his position in the kitchen cabinet, is less inclined to comment on political issues related to PTI as he doesn't want to be seen as a spoiler like Khawaja Asif. In case of any direct contact with Imran Khan, Chaudhry Nisar and Senator Ishaq Dar are expected to be given the key assignment as "chief negotiators" from PML-N side along with JI Amir Sirajul Haq who is also PTI's major coalition partner in KPK provincial government.


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