Despite multiple attempts by the PTI at initiating talks with political stakeholders over the past week, the ruling government appears to have no interest in joining the table. On Tuesday, PM Shehbaz Sharif outrightly rejected Imran Khan’s offer to hold talks in the backdrop of the May 9 riots and the subsequent developments that have left the PTI handicapped. It is evident that the government is enjoying the dominant position at the moment and is employing the PTI’s own playbook against it, but this cannot go on for much longer given the extremely fragile situation in the country.
Rejecting the option of talks with the PTI, the PM stated that those who were involved in destroying public and private property on May 9 should be held accountable for their anti-state actions. This stance is exactly in line with what the government’s Information Minister, Marriyum Aurangzeb, also stated following the formation of PTI’s negotiations committee earlier this week.
The government seems keen to press on its advantage, and the rhetoric being deployed is very similar to what the PTI resorted to when it was in power. Back then, they refused to negotiate with “corrupt leaders and thieves”, and now, the PDM is unwilling to sit at the table with “anarchists and arsonists”. While this is unfortunate to witness, this cycle of vengeance and personal vendettas is nothing new when it comes to our politics.
Clearly, it is too late for any such overtures on the part of the PTI, and it would have been better served if it considered talks to be a viable option back when its fortunes were not depleted. However, given the severity of the situation and the increasing polarisation across the country, all the political stakeholders will have to prioritise the national interest and sit together to forge a consensus over the rules of the game. PM Shehbaz is right that dialogue is key to evolving democracy, and he should adopt the same mantra to this situation as well. Members of the PDM have a long history and have had the time and space to falter and then introspect on how to move forward in the political arena. Therefore, the door for talks should never be shut in politics, and the government has a chance to be the more mature and magnanimous party while taking advantage of the strong position it finds itself in.