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Islamabad (Dawn): WITHIN a month of their oath-taking, the newly elected members of the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) adopted a resolution demanding the granting of full constitutional rights to the people of their region. The assembly also passed a similar resolution on Sept 29, 2014.
In the earlier resolution, the demand for the integration of GB as a fully fledged fifth province of Pakistan was put forth. However, in order to accommodate the stance of the government of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which links the fate of GB with Kashmir, the assembly has gone on to modify the resolution and demanded the integration of GB as a province in Pakistan provisionally until the final resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue in line with the relevant UN resolution.
The provisional demand for its integration as a province is based on the precedent set in the 1963 Pakistan-China border agreement for demarcation of the boundary. It was specifically stated that this international treaty was provisional and subject to ratification after the final settlement of the status of this area. The disputed status of this area has been repeatedly reiterated by the Pakistani government before all forums, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The people of the region look at the arrangement through a different lens. To them, the area had acceded to Pakistan as an independent entity once locals had liberated GB, and Pakistan had accepted the accession in a two-way agreement. This should have settled their status. Unfortunately, instead of formalising this agreement, the government of Pakistan chose to enter into the infamous Karachi Agreement of 1949 with the leaders of the All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference who did not represent GB, and subsequently the administration of this region was handed over to the Pakistani government without their consent.
The de facto administrative control of the area by the Pakistani government is based on the following two fundamentals:
I) Resolution adopted by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan on August 13, 1948. Part-II A(3) states that this territory will be “… administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission”.
II) The general will of the people for accession to the state of Pakistan that has been repeatedly expressed through unwavering loyalty, commitment and patriotism. The people of the region take pride in the fact that the Northern Light Infantry, an army regiment of this area, is the most decorated regiment of Pakistan with hundreds of martyrs who have laid down their lives defending the state of Pakistan in all conflicts with its enemies.
Despite the above, the federation has not allowed the local population to administer their affairs independently through their elected representatives as per the United Nations resolution. Under escalating demand for constitutional rights, various governments have incrementally and reluctantly given limited powers to the elected representatives of this area. This process was initiated by the first Pakistan Peoples Party government, but none of the subsequent governments has met the demands of the people for full constitutional rights.
All important decisions that have a direct impact on the daily lives of the people of the area are being taken in the name of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council that has a total membership of 15, of which only six are elected indirectly by the local legislative assembly. The remaining members are the nominees of the government of Pakistan. The council unilaterally has been extending federal laws to this region without any consultation of the directly elected assembly.
Similarly, the legal structure provided for the governance of this area has no sanctity and can be amended through a presidential decree. Even the judicial structure with temporary appointments of the judges by the Pakistan government raises questions about their independence in adjudicating key issues in which the federation is a party.
This de facto control of the area by the government is based solely on the general will of the populace as it does not conform to the benchmark of self-rule envisaged in the UN resolution. The withdrawal of this general will is likely to create a legal void severing any legal linkage with the federation. The government has failed to understand and appreciate the gravity of the emerging discontent, which has been catalysed by a very high level of education and awareness amongst the youth who question the continued disregard for the rights of the people of this area.
The obvious neglect of the area in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects in the Planning Commission’s list of schemes shown on its web page and imposition of custom duties and income tax without the involvement of the elected assembly are key issues which are a source for concern amongst GB residents. These are issues which have attracted recurring protests and increasing expression of resentment on social media.
Although the Pakistani government had set up a committee to look into the constitutional issue, there have been no concrete outcomes as a result of its deliberations, and the government has continued to ignore this matter of national importance. Purportedly, China has also expressed its concern about the legal status of the area as access for CPEC projects is from GB.
The provisional provincial status could place this region within a broad legal framework and ascertain legal linkage with Pakistan. As the present governance structure is not in line with the UN resolution, it is vital that in order to protect the legitimacy of the presence of the Pakistani government in this area, the people’s demands are taken seriously and specific legal arrangements formalised.
If GB cannot be accepted as a province even provisionally, another alternative is to deal with it as a disputed autonomous region and enter into a formal agreement with the local stakeholders representing diverse areas of GB. An undiluted democratic structure needs to be set up with sole authority to deal with all matters that have a direct impact on the lives of the locals, specifically taxation and usage of its natural resources.
Continued neglect is not an option. Disregard of the legitimate demands of the area will have serious implications for Pakistan and its highly important development projects in the form of CPEC.
Mr. Afzal Shigri, a former IGP Sindh, belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Islamabad (Dawn): GILGIT Baltistan’s horticulture presents a huge export potential but the region lacks the wherewithal to switch from subsistence to commercial farming for lack of required support. About 90pc of its population is engaged in agricultural related activities.
Pakistan is the sixth largest apricot producer in the world but its share in the fruit’s export market is negligible. The Dry Fruit Project (AKRSP) has recognised market potentials for GB’s dry apricot, apple and mulberry in the UK. While unprocessed apricots are bought at Rs6-7 a kg, foreign buyers purchase processed apricots at Rs300-500 a kg.
Around 16-57pc fresh fruit is wasted annually in GB due to traditional fruit cultivars. Limitations in fruit-processing include non-availability of sugar and thickening agents which must be transported from Lahore.
Most food processing units are small, lack vital market linkages and can process only a fraction of the total produce simultaneously. Fruit is commonly dried manually, thus risking it to dust and affecting its quality. Plantation is unplanned and scattered so traders/wholesalers do not get desired varieties and volume at the same location.
Stress should be laid on diversification towards higher value crops and provision of easy credit facilities to farmers. The global packaging techniques are un-affordable for the farmers having low production volumes and traders lack real-time access to market information. Diversification is required towards higher value crops and provision of easy credit facilities is essential for farmers’ investment in production. Processing of packaged products, in compliance with international standards, needs to be prioritized.
Unmonitored introduction of global fruit cultivars under multiple horticulture development programmes has put traditional local varieties at risk of gradual disappearance.
Extension Departments must be geared for technology transfer, farmer training, technical advice and supply of crop inputs, and to adopt modern service delivery methods.
Marketing remains at the least-attended stage of value-chain development. The number of registered seed producers to multiply and market seeds is insufficient.
However, ample water, naturally well-drained soils, conditions favourable to organic farming, feasibility of commercial production of cross pollinated seeds, proximity to export markets (China and Central Asia), an embedded pest control climate, a mobilised community favourable to resource-pooling and collective service delivery are competitive advantages of horticulture industry of Swat, Kaghan and Neelum valleys.
There is a need to expand crop varieties in GB to ensure food security and produce export surpluses.
Community-run water management has led to over and under irrigation; water channels display low conveyance ability and demand recurrent maintenance because modern engineering concepts have not been deployed during construction of water channels.
A few policy recommendations to improve the potential of this industry could be: enhancing R&D capacity to produce pre-basic and basic seeds on commercial scale; synchronising extension services of provincial agriculture departments and the private-sector; upgrading the Gilgit Airport to an all-weather airport; prioritising construction and maintenance of Tajikistan Road and developing a centralised e-platform for marketing of locally-produced certified seeds.
Then there is a need for setting up of functional and equipped processing units in all seven districts. It must also be ensured that that the Department of Agriculture and relevant departments are have more of technical staff than non-technical support staff.
The writer is an assistant professor at PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Attock Campus
ISLAMABAD (AFP): Pakistan is mulling upgrading the constitutional status of its Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is also claimed by India, in a bid to provide legal cover to a multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan, officials said Thursday.
The move could signal a historic shift in Pakistan’s position on the future of the wider Kashmir region, observers have said, dealing another potential blow to fragile peace talk efforts that received a boost after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore in December.
The proposal would see the mountainous region mentioned by name for the first time in Pakistan’s constitution, bringing it one step closer to being fully absorbed as an additional province.
Islamabad has historically insisted the parts of Kashmir it controls are semi-autonomous and has not formally integrated them into the country, in line with its position that a referendum should be carried out across the whole of the region.
Sajjadul Haq, spokesperson for the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan Hafiz Hafeez ur Rehman, told AFP: “A high level committee formed by the prime minister is working on the issue, you will hear good news soon.”
Rehman, who arrived in Islamabad Thursday, was working on the finishing touches to the agreement, a senior official said, adding the document could be unveiled “in a few days”.
In addition to being named in the constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan would also send two lawmakers to sit in the federal parliament — though they would be given observer status only.
A third top government official from Gilgit-Baltistan said the move was in response to concerns raised by Beijing about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, an ambitious $46 billion infrastructure plan set to link China’s western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
“China cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The corridor plans have been strongly criticised by New Delhi, with India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in June calling the project “unacceptable” for crossing through Indian-claimed territory.
India and Pakistan have fought two full-scale wars over Kashmir, and any changes to the status quo could prove a further setback to hopes for dialogue that were revived after Modi made the historic Lahore visit.
Those efforts were already seen as fragile following a deadly attack on an Indian air base near the Pakistan border Saturday that was followed by a 25-hour siege on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan on Monday.
But according to Pakistani strategic analyst Ayesha Siddiqa, the move could also signal Islamabad’s desire to end the Kashmir conflict by formally absorbing the territory it controls — and, by extension, recognising New Delhi’s claims to parts of the region it controls, such as the Kashmir valley.
“If we begin to absorb it so can India. It legitimises their absorption of the Valley,” she said.
By Afzal A.Shigri
Standing as a reincarnation of the historical old silk route, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is defined as a game changer. China has pledged to invest $46 billion in a highway network from Khunjrab to Gwadar, energy projects and the establishment of economic zones. The stated policy of the Pakistan government is to spread the benefits of this investment through the equitable distribution of resources and projects to all provinces. Curiously, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is seldom mentioned in these statements by government functionaries. CPEC projects were actually initiated with the construction of the Gwadar Port by the Chinese and the upgradation of the Karakorum Highway (KKH) entering Pakistan through GB.
It all began when KKH was built in the late ’60s and ’70s along the Gilgit and Indus rivers. Thousands of Chinese crossed into Pakistan to build the road. It was a daunting task to take up this massive project manually with very limited machinery. However, the Chinese and their Pakistani counterparts blasted their way through sheer hard rock walls, shifting gravel and mountains to carve a road, popularly known as the eighth wonder of the world. It was indeed a feat of engineering and the courage of thousands of men who lost their life while forging this road is commendable.
The local population was apprehensive of this massive ingress and its impact on their daily lives. The government allayed their fears by telling them that this road would open GB to the world, bring prosperity to the area and new jobs for the youth. Highly patriotic, the people of GB welcomed this development. It did open the area to the outside world and created employment. But a price had to be paid in the shape of years of unrest and bloodshed in the region due to sectarian strife introduced to the area as outsiders brought in contested ideologies to bear on local political, religious and social dynamics. Further, the huge trucks taking goods to and from China spewed smoke and polluted the environment, and also brought in drugs and guns.
This area has a unique history as its people after a valiant two-year struggle overcame the organised army of the Kashmir state, liberating the area and acceding to Pakistan in the hope of becoming Pakistanis. Tragically, the Pakistan government, instead of integrating these patriots as citizens accepted their accession only for administrative control, defining it as a disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The purpose of this was in anticipation of creating assured votes in the event of the promised plebiscite materialising. The plebiscite never took place, and there is no possibility it will, but this region was tagged to the Kashmir dispute and administered through presidential decrees. Because GB does not have any representation in parliament and is not part of Pakistan constitutionally, it does not figure in state structures where decisions regarding the federating units are taken. Resultantly, they have no say in CPEC projects. They are not even represented in any consultative and planning committees of the projects.
CPEC projects according to the Planning Division are designed for the economic development of each province. For GB, except for the KKH upgradation that will result in scattered ribbon development of services along the roadside, no CPEC projects have been included in the overall plan. Surprisingly, no hydropower project has been identified for funding under CPEC. The government of Pakistan is focused on coal and LNG projects located in the plains of Punjab and Sindh. The Planning Division has oddly ignored the potential of hydropower projects. Along the KKH, the potential of run-of-the-river projects is phenomenal. At Bunji alone, a project of 7,400MW of energy can be established with two additional projects of 2,000MW each upstream from this location. These alone can meet much of Pakistan’s energy requirements. Hydro energy is environment-friendly, low-cost and economically viable; it can save billions of dollars in forex required for the import of oil, LNG and coal. While the world is opting for clean energy, we are opting for polluting power-generating projects.
Since GB has no say in CPEC projects, there is no one to safeguard its people’s rights. The only way to give them a voice to ensure protection of their claim for economic development through CPEC is to resolve their constitutional status with representation in parliament and all government structures. The government must recognise that there has been a silent revolution in education in GB thanks to NGOs, and the literacy rate amongst the youth is now almost 100pc. Thus, they may not accept the oft-repeated promises of good times to come. They want to be part of decisions that directly impact their future. Without resolution of the legal status of GB, this is impossible.
This state of legal void will give rise to questions about the entire arrangement of agreements for these projects. And when the discrimination becomes apparent in project implementation, it is likely to give rise to discontent that can degenerate into protests endangering the entire scheme. The committee established under the chairmanship of the foreign affairs adviser must take into account these factors, while considering the fundamental constitutional issue.
To safeguard their official stance on Kashmir, the Foreign Office should use its imagination as it is not a problem of the people of GB who have opted for Pakistan unconditionally. Any halfway cosmetic solution such as observer status in the National Assembly (as was granted in the early 1980s) will be unacceptable. They must have the full rights and privileges of a Pakistan citizen with representation in parliament. A discontented population at the head of the economic corridor can derail the entire project, which does not bode well for the people of GB and Pakistan, the country that they love and died for in armed conflicts with its enemies.
The writer, a former IGP Sindh, belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan.
By Ali Dayan Hasan
LAHORE (NY.Times): The violence has subsided and the politicians are negotiating, but the protesters are still asking for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was elected only last year.
Democrats here, as well as much of civil society and the media, insist that the power-hungry military has something to do with this crisis. They suspect it of supporting the cricketer turned politician Imran Khan and the anti-Taliban cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, the two marginal but influential politicians behind these unprecedented demonstrations, in their bid to take down the government.
This is true, but it is only half the truth. Of course, Pakistan is partly a praetorian state and the generals would like to see Mr. Sharif go. But the military has not manufactured the anger that is visible on the streets of Islamabad. Whatever the motivations of the protests’ leaders, or of their behind-the-scenes backers, the people’s grievances are only too real. Pakistani democracy is on its knees.
For more than three weeks, Islamabad, the country’s otherwise pristine capital, has been overrun by tens of thousands of demonstrators. Sweltering heat, torrential rain, food and water shortages, inadequate toilet facilities, the resulting stench of excrement — nothing seems to deter the demonstrators from occupying the city’s so-called Red Zone, home to major government buildings including parliament and the prime minister’s official residence. For over two weeks, the sit-in remained peaceful. Then on Aug. 31, when protesters decided to move in front of Mr. Sharif’s residence, the government cracked down. That triggered 48 hours of violence, which killed three people and wounded at least 500, including dozens of police officers. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.
Thousands of people remain on the streets of Islamabad while a delegation of opposition parties tries to broker a settlement with Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri. (The 11 other political parties in Parliament, including the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party led by former president Asif Ali Zardari, have rallied around Mr. Sharif.) The idea would be to leave Mr. Sharif in office, at least for now, but address the protesters’ demands for reform.
Mr. Khan claims that last year’s election was rigged at Mr. Sharif’s behest and is demanding his ouster, electoral reforms and new polls. Mr. Khan is a sore loser. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, won 35 of 342 seats in Parliament and control of the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which borders Afghanistan. But Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which is war-torn and poor, is an inadequate vehicle for Mr. Khan’s ambitions, and so Mr. Khan has set out to dethrone the prime minister. In the process, this brazen Taliban apologist has infused ignorance and arrogance into the national political conversation. Between asinine references to his sporting career and crass allusions to Mr. Sharif wetting his pants, Mr. Khan has advocated tax evasion, lawlessness and money laundering as forms of civil disobedience against the state.
Inconveniently for the prime minister, Mr. Khan hails from the same power base: the urban, densely populated, affluent swathe of North Punjab, which stretches from Lahore, the provincial capital, to Islamabad and accounts for well over a quarter of the seats in Parliament. North Punjab is the military’s recruiting ground and the historical beneficiary of its dominance. North Punjabis, roughly one-third of Pakistan’s entire population, are the country’s premier citizens. They dominate its political, military and bureaucratic elites, its unruly media, its civil society.
Over the years, Mr. Sharif has gone from military protégé to ardent democrat. This transformation is popular with Punjabis, which means he is now less vulnerable to being deposed by the military. On the other hand, it has created space for Mr. Khan to represent the region’s pro-military sentiment. Had protesters, or political leaders, from Pakistan’s smaller provinces displayed as much gall as Mr. Khan has, they would have been put back in their place with swift brutality. But just as the military cannot afford to carry out a direct coup against Mr. Sharif, Mr. Sharif must tolerate Mr. Khan and his supporters.
Mr. Qadri, the cleric, is an altogether more complex entity. His party boycotted the election last year, and now he is calling for a revolution to bring about genuine democracy. A fiery orator, Mr. Qadri spouts powerful rhetoric about social exclusion and disempowerment, and oversees a broad-based alliance of persecuted Shiite and anti-Taliban Sunni Muslims. His supporters — a pious and literate cross-section of society — makes up much of the crowd at the sit-in: It was the unprovoked June 17 attack by the Sharif-controlled police on Mr. Qadri’s headquarters in Lahore, which killed 14 people, that provided the impetus for the protests.
That murderous attack, and the government’s initial refusal to allow the victims’ families to file a complaint against the prime minister and other officials, touched a raw nerve among ordinary people: It was yet another abuse of the criminal justice system. The use of the police, judiciary and administration for partisan purposes makes a mockery of claims that with democracy comes the rule of law. And it does far more to delegitimize the democratic project than any power-grabbing plot by the military.
This view would be less persuasive if the political elite had spent more time trying to fix Pakistan’s broken governance system by encouraging political participation and restructuring state institutions to be less unaccountable, partisan and violent. But the politicians have only let the authority of the state crumble further, and the citizenry is increasingly frustrated.
Grandstanding about the supremacy of civilian rule is no substitute for addressing the root causes of Pakistan’s dysfunctions: the denial of justice and rights, growing inequity, insecurity, a distrust of state institutions. Pakistan needs electoral and judicial reform, an overhaul of the criminal justice system and the creation of elected local government institutions.
A weakened Mr. Sharif may manage to cling on to office for a little while longer by ceding yet more power to the military. But when you preside over a bully state, eventually the biggest bully on the block will kick your teeth in.
Ali Dayan Hasan is a Pakistani human rights activist.
Islamabad (BBC): When they first arrived on Islamabad’s sprawling Kashmir Highway three weeks ago, the anti-government protesters were burning with the desire to tear down the citadels of power – and make short work of it. They looked around, saw what seemed like a million heads as their leaders had predicted, and punched the air harder, shouting: “Down with Nawaz Sharif”. But Pakistan’s prime minister is still in place.
Most of them have since lost interest and left the scene. Others, who still feel obliged to hang on, keep asking journalists: “Will it end soon? Will talks succeed?”
Across the fence, beyond the shipping containers which are piled one over the other to create hurdles for protesters, saunter weary-looking, bored policemen. The days when thousands of them shuffled into line and beat their batons against their glass shields to create the overawing sound of battle are behind them. Their only wish now seems to be that the government gives them orders to finish the job and go home. Most of them have been shipped to Islamabad from hundreds of miles away, leaving behind their families, clothing, toiletries and daily routines. And it has been more than a month.
The key to defuse the confrontation between these two sets of adversaries lies in the hands of their respective mobilisers – one controlling the seat of power, the other lodged in two shipping containers parked side-by-side on the road outside.
There may be a third contender to the issue – the “umpire” – if one is to believe Imran Khan, one of the leaders in the containers. He has been elusive about what exactly he means when he talks about the “umpire” but most Pakistanis understand this to be a reference to the country’s military. This scene in Islamabad illustrates yet again the enigma that the Pakistani state has become for many around the world. It is seen as a country marred by perpetual political instability, militant attacks, a separatist insurgency across more than 40 per cent of its landmass, and a country that is eternally on the verge of economic collapse.
But it is also a country which has not descended into anarchy, can beat militancy at will, whose claim of being a “responsible” nuclear power is taken seriously in international power centres, and which continues to compete with India – which is ten times bigger – for strategic one-upmanship in the South Asian region.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s PTI party wants “freedom” from what it sees as a faulty electoral system. It accuses Prime Minister Sharif’s government of having stolen last year’s elections, wants it to quit and wants fresh elections, but after electoral reforms. In the neighbouring container, cleric Tahirul Qadri is espousing a wider, “revolutionary” agenda; he wants “moral reforms” which would be undertaken by a set of “clean” individuals holding state power over a longer period of time.
Pakistan’s fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, second left, gestures while delivering his speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tahirul Qadri is espousing a more “revolutionary” agenda. He also wants the Punjab chief minister’s scalp for the 14 June police action in which 16 of his disciples were killed.
The calls from the two leaders for the government’s ousting have fallen on deaf ears, and have led the ruling and opposition forces in parliament to close ranks. This is unlike the 1990s, when opposition forces tended to gravitate to the protesters, isolating the government. So the residents of Islamabad, the audiences of the Pakistani news channels all over the country and the world are witnessing an extended version of what former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, used to call the “political circus”. It begins with the parliamentarians in their rhetorical speeches warning against threats to democracy from the “container leaders” and the “institutions” – a euphemism for the military.
The night begins with hyperbole from the “container leaders” calling the parliamentarians “thieves” and reiterating their resolve to stand their ground until the “umpire” lifts his finger, as in a cricket match when a batsman is declared out.
A PTI leader said yesterday the government has agreed to 5.5 out of his party’s six demands. Others say a rapprochement with Mr Qadri is also on the cards. But many are of the view that a resolution will come quickly once a set of completely different issues – concerning national security and regional policy – are settled with the country’s “umpire”.
ISLAMABAD (DT): The PTI and PML-N government on Monday inched closer to an expected agreement that both sides hope could be reached within the “ongoing week”, as disagreements still persist on some key points being thrashed out by the two sides.
Both sides held two rounds of talks, the latter commencing midnight Monday at the residence of PTI’s Secretary General Jahangir Khan Tareen. Talking to media persons after the meeting, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that both sides have shown flexibility and agreed upon various issues. He said that there still are issues which need further progress. Qureshi said that “we want to enhance the democratic structure more than before and we also want to end the current deadlock but there is still a gap on the core issues between two sides”.
On Monday, the government committee headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, and comprising minister Zahid Hamid, did not brief media persons and went to attend the joint sitting of parliament. PTI’s negotiating team included Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen. On the other side, government committee comprising of Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Minister of State and Frontier Region Abdul Qadir Baloch meet PAT President Raheeq Abbasi and Khuram Nawaz Gandapur at PPP Senator Rehman Malik’s Islamabad residence.
Raheeq Abbasi told media persons after the meeting that that the PAT has presented legal and constitutional demands over Model Town incident to the government committee and asked for justice over the incident. Ahsan Iqbal told media after the meeting that talks with PTI and PAT would prove successful and results are expected during the current week. He said that important developments have been made to end the current deadlock. The ongoing sit-ins, he said, were damaging the country’s image internationally as foreign delegations were cancelling their visits.
The minister asked PTI and PAT to call off their sit-ins immediately as their protest had been registered and they should draw their attention to the affected people of devastating floods in the country. Ahsan Iqbal said that “we believe in the continuation of democracy and would prefer talks to end political turmoil”, adding that “we would prevent every move to sabotage the peace talks”. The government is holding talks with both PTI and PAT for the settlement of ongoing political issue and if the leadership of these parties show serious attitude, the talks will be successful, he said.
Meanwhile a political jirga headed by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, and comprising former PPP interior minister Rehman Malik and Liaqat Baloch met PAT delegation headed by its President Raheeq Abbasi, and Khuram Nawaz Gandapur. Sirajul Haq said that political jirga had played a successful role to end the deadlock between government and protesting parties. Haq said that talks were gradually moving forward and any side which shows flexibility will get more points from the nation, adding that there should be face saving for all sides in the deal. “We are hopeful and pray that three sides will succeed in striking a deal on the issue,” he said. Rehman Malik stressed that all the sides needed to demonstrate patience and sacrifice. “We should think beyond our political interests,” he said. Malik said that government has made some progress regarding demands of PTI.