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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 589, 1 May 2023

Two rounds of Government-PTI talks, but one result



Parties continue the negotiations and scheduled to have the next round on 2 May 2023

D. Suba Chandran

During the last week, two rounds of talks between the representatives of the coalition government and the PTI have been held. The only significant agreement between the two parties is to continue the negotiations and have the next round on 2 May 2023.
 
While there were multiple issues on which the two differ drastically, the primary stalemate between the two parties is over when to hold the next election. The PTI would want to go by the schedule that the Supreme Court has announced; this would mean the government has to hold the election in May 2023 for two provincial assemblies – Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The government would want to hold the elections for these two provinces later this year; preferably for all four provinces, along with the Parliament. If the PTI’s position on holding elections in May is rigid, the government’s reluctance to yield is more stubborn.
 
So far, during the first two rounds, both parties have remained glued to their respective positions. The PTI has given another ultimatum to hold elections on 15 May. This tough posturing by the PTI is less likely to yield any result; the PTI seems to be focused on holding elections in May (or somewhere in the next few weeks) as a primary negotiation point; unless the government yields to do it, no other discussion is possible, seems to the PTI’s position.
 
On the other hand, the government seems equally stubborn about not holding elections soon as the primary negotiation point. Unless the PTI agrees, there would be no further negotiation to the government’s position.
 
Both are maximalist positions; no negotiation would advance if the parties stick to it. Then, why do they negotiate? Perhaps both parties want to portray an image that they are willing to negotiate, but the other side is stubborn. Or, perhaps, there is pressure from the other institutions; the Supreme Court has advised both parties to reach a political consensus. One is not sure whether the Establishment has also asked the same.
 
The PTI and the government should consider discussing other issues that are low-hanging fruits. For example, the return of the PTI to the Parliament. Ever since the PTI members were asked to resign by the party leadership, the PTI MNAs have been staying away from the Parliament. Both parties would want to discuss a common minimum programme on how to address the economy that has been in a freefall.
 
While the PPP seems to be ok with the idea, JUI-F and PML-N are not totally on board. There also seems to be resistance within the two parties to negotiate with the other. Within the PTI, one is not sure how keen Imran Khan is in the first place.
 
So, why do the two parties stick to a maximalist position? For the PTI and Imran Khan, a tough posture is politically advantageous, than making any compromise. For the PML-N, any compromise on not holding the election in the near future is politically disastrous. Atleast that is what the thinking within the PML-N is – that an early election is not in the party’s interest.

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