There have been suggestions, insinutations and repudiations regarding backchannel talks between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the PMLN-led coalition government. It has gone alongside about chest-thumping claims by the PTI of the dissolution of KP and Punjab assemblies while the PDM coalition has been equally boisterous in ruling out the possibility of early elections.
In this charged political atmosphere, another PTI leader has been induced in the Punjab cabinet. Khayal Ahmed Castro was sworn in as a provincial minister earlier today although he is yet to be given a portfolio. But his inclusion in the cabinet has raise whether the PTI is serious about the dissolution of the assemblies or is it mere posturing.
If the assemblies are to be dissolved, then why are new ministers being inducted in the cabinet?
The PTI and its allies are currently working on a strategy that would necessitate the dissolution of all assemblies - national and provincial as well as those of administrative units. Meanwhile, the grapevine suggests that there will be a delay in Imran Khan’s announcement regarding the dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies, which was initially slated to take place between December 15 to 20.
The PTI ministers opine that any delay in the dissolution would be because of a cogent reason or reasons. They insist that the PTI would benefit from the delay because Imran Khan’s narrative is getting stronger and that of the coalition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is losing popularity among the masses.
Recently, PTI leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Mussarat Jamshed Cheema confirmed that talks are taking place. Fawad said that PTI was ready for formal talks if the government agrees to hold early elections.
“If they are willing to do so, we can sit with them,” he said.
The ruling PDM expressed its willingness to engage Imran Khan in a dialogue to break the prevailing political impasse but said it wanted the PTI to let go of its conditions.
The coalition government rejected the PTI’s offer of conditional talks, saying that they should sit with the government without any pre-conditions for the negotiation.
The ruling coalition believes it is the the PTI who need the talks, with the PML-N leadership questioning whether the PTI have the consistency to follow through with it.
Earlier, Imran Khan had invited the PDM-led government to talks over the possibility of early polls and warned that around 66pc of Pakistan would have to vote for by-polls if the governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa dissolved the assemblies.
The PDM responded by saying that they wouldn’t stop Imran Khan from dissolving assemblies and that the coalition partners were ready to contest the election.
Analysts think it would not be easy for the PDM to go for elections after the dissolution of assemblies as they have no narrative to ‘sell’ to the public.
In this context, efforts are being made on both sides to hold negotiations for a consensus solution.
Sources say that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani’s meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore was another primer for the negotiations between the government and the PTI.