Thursday, May 26, 2022

PTI approached 'neutrals' for talks with govt: Ahsan Iqbal

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal. — Reuters/File
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal. — Reuters/File

  • During talks, PTI’s only demand was that govt announce a date for the election, says Ahsan Iqbal.
  • “PTI sent a message through ‘third party’ that they wanted to talk to us,” Iqbal reveals.
  • He says when PTI gave this call of long march that is when "we decided that this is non-negotiable."

On Wednesday, the PTI leadership approached the “neutrals” and requested them to get the government to hold talks, revealed the minister for planning and development.

Till late evening yesterday, the meeting between the PTI leadership and government representatives was kept under wraps on the request of the PTI, said Ahsan Iqbal, the minister for planning and development.

“They [PTI] sent a message through the ‘third party’ that they wanted to talk to us and negotiate,” Iqbal told

However, the meeting was denied by Imran Khan, the chairman of PTI, as well as the information minister of the coalition government. But at night, Ayaz Sadiq, the minister for economic affairs, admitted while talking to Geo Television that the meeting had indeed taken place but was kept confidential on PTI’s request.

Read more: Imran Khan gives six-day ultimatum to govt to announce elections

Former prime minister Khan had begun his march to the federal capital on Wednesday afternoon from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to demand the removal of the government and immediate election.

While Khan’s caravan was moving ahead, and his protesters were clashing with the police in various cities of the country, his party’s senior leadership was secretly holding talks with the government.

Those present in the meeting from the government side reportedly included Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq, Malik Muhammad Khan, amongst others. While from the PTI side, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar and Shah Mehmood Qureshi were part of the parley.

During talks, the PTI’s only demand was that the government announce a date for the election, said Iqbal.

Read more: Govt files contempt of court plea against Imran Khan in SC

“They kept saying you announce a date today, even if it is for election in October and we will go back,” the minister told, “They [the PTI] had no other demand as such. They kept saying just give us a date.”

The minister said that the government team refused to do so, adding that they will not announce a polling date on “gunpoint”.

“We even told them that what you want [immediate polls], we are almost ready to do on our own,” Iqbal explained, “We were even trying to convince our allies. But when the PTI gave this call [of the long march] that is when we decided that this is non-negotiable. We cannot surrender to blackmailing.”

Instead, the PML-N leadership offered the PTI to immediately call off the march. If it did so, the government would then publicly announce that it is holding talks with the PTI. It will also negotiate a date for new polls if the PTI returned to the parliament and took part in the process of electoral reforms, the minister said.

Read more: PTI protesters pelt stones at Jang, Geo Islamabad office

While there was no breakthrough yesterday between the two sides, on Thursday morning Imran Khan announced from atop a container that he is calling off his march and gave the government six more days to announce an immediate election or he will return to the federal capital with a larger crowd.

Iqbal called this a “desperate” move by Khan. “We could see the desperation in them yesterday as well. They were exposed,” he added. “The crowd that came out was not up to their expectations. So they needed a face saving.”