ISLAMABAD - After completing the much-delayed process of appointing Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), the government on Friday said that dialogue with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) could resume on Sunday (tomorrow).

Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar said that the government has completed the process of appointing CEC by the December 5 deadline given by the Supreme Court and now it can resume talks with the PTI. He said the government has all along been open to talks.

“The PTI will be approached on Sunday morning after return of the prime minister from abroad,” said the economic wizard of the government while talking to the media after attending a seminar organised by the Competition Commission of Pakistan to celebrate the World Competition Day.

Dar said that talks could be held even on Sunday subject to the availability of members of the negotiating teams. At the same time, he said that the PTI chairman will have to defer his programme to shut down various cities of the country. “Dialogue is the natural way forward in politics and the government never refused to hold talks with the PTI,” he remarked.

He informed the media that the government would hold negotiations with the PTI according to the law and constitution. The government would also take the other political parties on board regarding talks with the PTI, he added.

Talking about the alleged rigging in general elections, Ishaq Dar said, “A commission would be set up under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956.” He said no one could dictate the judicial commission, as it would compromise senior judges. There would be no moral ground to remain in power if the Judicial Commission’s report proves rigging in general election of 2013, he added. Similarly, the PTI would call off its sit-in if Commission’s report did not find massive rigging as claimed by the PTI.

Dar once again argued that officials from the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) could not be included in the judicial commission to probe alleged rigging in general elections of 2013. However, if the commission itself wanted to include officials from intelligence agencies, the government would not object to it, he added.

“A judicial commission through presidential ordinance is not feasible, and that will not be able to probe election rigging,” added the finance minister. In that case, there are apprehensions that it would be challenged and struck down. He said an inquiry commission could be formed with mandate to investigate 2013 general elections to find out whether massive or systematic rigging took place to favour the PML-N.

Replying to a question, Ishaq Dar said the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms is continuing its work covering main demands of the PTI about electoral reforms to ensure transparency and fairness of elections.

On its part, the PTI had reflected flexibility in its stance by its chief dropping some of the demands (such as of PM’s resignation) in the recent days. But the protesting party on Friday expressed frustration with the ruling party, with Imran Khan saying that the Plan-C of shutdown will not be reversed. In his address from the container, Imran said that Dar had linked talks resumption to the cancellation of shutdown. Imran said that the Dec 8 Faisalabad protest will go ahead. He said that it was up to the people and traders of Faisalabad to decide if they were satisfied with the six-time rule of the PML-N. He said if they were, they may keep their businesses open; but they weren’t, they should shut the city. He said he would himself be in Faisalabad on the given day.

Similarly, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that they have received no invitation from the PML-N for talks. He said that it appeared the PML-N was not sincere in talks resumption. PTI’s Shireen Mazari also said that their party would come to the negotiating table if the PMP-N showed sincerity in talks revival. She said that the call for shutdown would not be revoked.

In his address, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that the government has delayed the divestment of Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) for indefinite period.

Earlier, addressing the seminar, the minister said that the government has initiated a project to review all SROs and to phase some of them out gradually. The government is fully cognizant that certain SROs, whereby preferential and/or concessionary rate of duty on imports and other regulatory duties are given to certain parties, create an uneven playing field and distort competition. Loss to the industry through such preferential treatment is far graver than the benefit to any individual.

He further said that the government has increased the budget of Benazir Income Support Programme to help the poorest of the poor. To achieve the goal of accelerated GDP growth, the finance minister said the present government is clearly focused on providing economic and development opportunities to grass-root level segments while ensuring equal opportunities to all. These segments include youth, women, farmers, and small entrepreneurs. In the past, these segments have not been fairly compensated for their hard-work and commitment due to lack of sufficient opportunities, Dar said.