ISLAMABAD - Key leaders of ruling PML-N met in Murree and discussed PTI’s upcoming Azadi March and the extreme position Imran Khan has taken on his demands of electoral reforms and full audit of the 2013 general elections.
Sources aware of the deliberations of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) meeting informed The Nation that still the option of negotiated settlement of the issue would be the preferred choice of the rulers while handling the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI) march through other means also came under discussion.
The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharf and attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and others. It decided to step up efforts to convince PTI leadership to sit across the table to resolve issues instead of resorting to street power, which would not be good for the future of democracy.
The sources informed that Nisar gave a detailed briefing to Prime Minister Sharif on the security plan of the federal capital in case the efforts to resolve the issue through negotiations fail. He informed the meeting that Army would only be deployed to guard the sensitive government buildings and installations while the main security control of the city would remain with police.
The prime minister also discussed with party leaders the efforts so far made at various levels to convince PTI Chairman Imran Khan to sit across the table to address their concerns regarding prevalent electoral system in the country, sources said adding that Prime Minister Sharif could meet Imran Khan during the upcoming National Assembly session starting from August 4 provided the latter would show some inclination toward the negotiated settlement of the issue.
The government sources said the ruling party leaders also decided that efforts would be made to mobilise the public against the politics of protests and sit-ins and that they would propagate that such agitative moves would only harm the present democratic dispensation. A government source said that the ruling regime has also completed homework in case the PTI leadership insisted on going ahead with Azadi March on August 14.
So far the PTI leadership has not formally sought permission from government for holding of the rally in Islamabad and government would likely not allow them to gather at D-Chowk owing to the construction work going on there. Sources further informed that Premier Sharif was also using the cosy relations of Ch Nisar with Imran Khan to neutralise the situation and get the imbroglio settled through negotiations, though no breakthrough is in sight on this count and PTI leaderships seems inflexible.
Some PTI insiders informed that a group in the party was of strong view that the party must avail the dialogue opportunity and after seeking some concrete assurances and commitments from government, should defer the March. This group believes that if Nawaz government is wrapped up as a result of ‘Azadi March’ and ‘establishment’ takes over, the PTI would be blamed for the derailment of the system and the stigma would remain with it in times to come. But party Hawks want to exert maximum pressure on government and force it to accept their demand of holding mid-term polls, a source aware of a recent PTI leaders’ meeting informed.
PML-N sources said that Ch Nisar is still considered a trump card in the hands of Premier Shairf who could convince Imran on resolving the issue through negotiations. As a part their strategy to contain the situation in the wake of PTI’s march, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself would be meeting the top leadership of different political parties in coming days to woo their support on the issue.