ISLAMABAD    -   Talks between the government and the opposition on latter’s planned long march ended without reaching an accord on Friday night as the deadlock persisted between the two sides over venue of the protest.

The government’s seven-member negotiation committee, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, and the opposition’s 11-member Rehbar Committee held two rounds of talks to find a solution to the tensions arising out of “Azadi March”, seeking resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and fresh elections.

The march, scheduled to start on October 27 (tomorrow), will enter the federal capital on October 31.

“We could not reach any consensus and will continue the talks,” said Khattak after the end of second round of negotiations, without giving the next date for another sitting.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader and convener of the Rehbar Committee Akram Durrani said on the occasion that they were hoping for the positive outcome and talks would continue. In the first round of more than two hours long talks, both sides refused to budge from their positions on venue of the protest as the government wanted that the opposition should hold its October 31 protest rally at Parade Ground, while the opposition insisted on holding its gathering at the famous D Chowk, few meters from the Parliament House.

The sources confirmed to The Nation that the opposition had also suggested to the government to cordon off the Red Zone and D-Chowk areas, and allow their protest rally at some other place on the Jinnah Avenue; the main artery of the capital, leading to the Parliament House. In response the government sought some time from the opposition in order to discuss the proposal with the PM.

At the end of the first round of talks that were held at Akram Durrani’s residence, he (Durrani), in a joint press talk, said that the government had sought some time to take Prime Minister Imran Khan and the top government leadership into confidence over demands of the opposition, and that the talks would resume after a break.

Khattak said that initial talks were held in a cordial environment as both sides put forward their demands on the table. “We will give the nation good news soon,” he said.

A member of the opposition, who was part of the talks, told The Nation that other demands such as PM’s resignation, fresh elections, supremacy of civilian institutions, and the safeguarding of clauses pertaining to Islam embodied in the constitution were not discussed and the major discussion pertained to protest venue.

“No other issue was discussed except venue of the protest,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a senior leader of Awami National Party (ANP) and also member of Rehbar Committee, after the first round of talks.

“JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman would lead rally from Sindh to avoid arrest while the Sindh government would facilitate him,” he said while responding to a question.

Khattak, in his media interaction, also said demand about the resignation of PM was not on the table.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, and former finance minister and PTI MNA Asad Umar represented the government side besides Khattak.

The opposition side was represented by Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and Farhatullah Babar, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Ahsan Iqbal, former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Awami National Party’s Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Qaumi Watan Party’s Hashim Babar, National Party’s Tahir Bizenjo, and Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP)’s Awais Noorani besides Durrani.

Before this, the Rehbar Committee held a meeting to set parameters of its talks with the government.