The talks tango

Editorial Board
Sunday, Jun 16, 2024

Ever since the 2022 vote of no-confidence, ‘talks’ and the PTI have been somewhat of a challenge. First it was Imran Khan himself who would dilly-dally over talks, then say yes, then say no, then say yes again. Then post his arrest and post-May 9, any idea of talks became a bit of a pipedream. Each time the PTI has come even somewhat close to agreeing to negotiate with political parties, it has stepped back or flat-out refused to acknowledge political actors as the ‘real stakeholders’. Granted that they may have a point about where lies real power in the country, but no possible good can come of trivializing whatever bruised and battered form of a democratic system we hold today. In a seeming change of heart, now the PTI founder has given a green signal for talks with the government. According to the PTI’s Barrister Gohar, Imran wants the avenues of dialogue to be opened and is ready to forgive what has happened to him for reconciliation. This development comes after Imran had said that he would only engage in dialogue with those who hold real power. His statement came a day after judges of the Supreme Court hearing the appeals against the amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws advised him to start a dialogue with politicians. Per reports, PkMAP Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai, picked by the PTI to lead the negotiations, has agreed to hold talks with Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari.

Given that Pakistan is facing both political and economic crises, a political dialogue across the board will benefit the country as a whole. Not only will it bring political stability to an extent but the way Pakistan is moving on the economic front, with tough decisions on the cards, the country will need politicians to band together to get us out of the economic mess we are in right now. The government and its allies have always kept the door open for a dialogue with the PTI, whether when in power or in opposition. It was only Imran Khan who had been flip-flopping on the issue of a dialogue with the government. One day we would hear that the PTI was ready for a political dialogue but the next day we would be told that they would only talk to the establishment. And this is all despite the fact that the only people willing to talk to the PTI have been its rival political parties. According to some observers, this may actually be the reason why the PTI founder has now agreed to a dialogue with the government in order to break the political thaw so that things can move in the right direction.

We have seen how the PTI has treated its political rivalry as personal enmity. This sort of politics led to a toxic environment where those on the other side of politics were treated as enemies and pariahs. This mindset needs to change. Once a meaningful dialogue is initiated between all political parties, it can lead to a positive outcome. PML-N president Mian Nawaz Sharif recently talked about the Charter of Democracy with the PPP and also mentioned how he has no malice towards Imran or anyone else. This is an opportune moment for all sides to talk and get back some political space that has been ceded due to the hybrid system and also due to the PTI’s rigid stance on not talking to its opponents. When all political sides sit together, raise their grievances and then aim to resolve them, parliament is strengthened. The eventual outcome some day could be a rollback of the hybrid system.