If some claims are accurate, discussions might not be impossible. Rana Sanaullah, the minister of the interior, stated in a tweet that only Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif can engage in meaningful negotiations. Rana stated in a tweet that talks should be undertaken with the civilian administration, not “those in power,” without specifically addressing the PTI. The interior minister had stated in an interview that the PM would be receptive to a message from PTI Chairman Imran Khan. Given the situation, it is encouraging to note that the PDM administration is not completely ruling out the possibility of a political conversation with Khan.
This comes after Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the PML-Q, and Marriyum Aurangzeb, the minister of information, refused to engage Khan in conversation and labelled him a “terrorist.” However, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also stated last week that talks with Imran Khan may go if he adopted “corrective measures,” such as expressing regret to the country, acknowledging his error, and pledging not to repeat May 9 in the future. Imran Khan had assembled a team of seven people for talks. When the committee was established, there were concerns about how it would negotiate given that some of the members were in detention facilities and others were on the run. Additionally, Pervez Khattak recently gave a news conference and announced his resignation from his party post while Asad Qaiser was in the same room.
Imran’s response, though, will be the real test of this pudding. And based on his past behavior, he’ll probably continue to shun individuals he refers to as “crooks and criminals.” Imran had drawn criticism for choosing to convene a committee once more rather than speaking with the prime minister and other political figures directly. It is regrettable that the PTI has not drawn any conclusions from the events thus far because of his obstinacy and his insistence that he will not speak with “thieves and looters.”
Because the leader of the PTI speaks of the constitution and democracy while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge political power, this statement is inherently inconsistent. It is perplexing at best and frustrating at worst that the PTI places little value on parliament, which is where politics occurs – or is supposed to, at least – and does not want to interact with other political parties. The PTI ought to have pushed on a political resolution through conversation with the political stakeholders after May 9, if not earlier. It ought to have fought to strengthen democracy and ratified a new Democracy Charter. Despite the situation, the PDM administration has handled negotiations with Imran with maturity.
It appears that a worsening crisis is on the horizon. The importance of discourse, together with a commitment to the rule of law, due process, and zealous preservation of human rights, must be top priorities. Jibran Nasir, an activist and lawyer, was abducted on Thursday night; he has since returned home. This is abhorrent and does not augur well for any political party, political operative or political body.
How much longer is this going to last? Would it not make sense for Imran and the few others with him to find a method to meet with PM Shehbaz and other political leaders and address this crisis before it is too late if the plan is to have a minus-one settlement – and it appears that is where things are going? Where does Pakistan’s claim to democracy fit into all of this? One can only hope that it won’t continue down the current path. The arbitrary arrests and detentions that have occurred in recent weeks, as well as the virtually daily news briefings that are broadcast live, have aroused far too many concerns. If apolitical activists are not also protected, then our claims of democracy are nothing more than a facade.