Govt willing to hold talks with Imran: Saad

| Says Qadri not a stakeholder; reiterates nobody to be allowed into Red Zone

LAHORE- The government is willing to hold talks with Imran Khan to discuss his demands, excluding his call for the prime minister to step down as it is “unconstitutional”, Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq said on Friday.

Talking to The Nation, Khwaja Saad said Dr Tahirul Qadri was not a stakeholder and the government could not even think of engaging him. “Nobody is in a position to frame a new constitution,” the minister said, referring to the likely implications of the PAT chief’s demands.

Khwaja Saad hoped that in case of government-PTI talks some solution to the present situation would be arrived at.

About the government’s reluctance to discuss the prime minister’s resignation, the minister said Mian Nawaz Sharif had been elected by the people and there was no constitutional justification for anyone to seek his resignation. He recalled that the PML-N had countless reservations about the 2008-13 PPP government, but did not force it to quit because it had the mandate to stay for five years.

Going by the same principle, he said, there was no reason for any party to call upon Prime Minister Sharif to get aside.

Resignation of the prime minister is one of the major demands of the PTI chairman. Dr Qadri, on the other hand, rejects the entire system and wants a new setup in place through a revolution. He has already told his supporters that either he would bring about a revolution in the country or prefer martyrdom. Khwaja Saad said if the government gave in to the PM resignation demand because of the pressure being mounted by some people, tomorrow a bigger crowd would get justification to pull down the new government. There is no room for such demands, he said.

Replying to a question, Khwaja Saad said the judicial commission sought by the prime minister could look only into the “general complaints” against the 2013 elections. Audit of all seats would be beyond the purview of the judicial body as in that case other parties represented in parliament would also get involved, he clarified.

The government has written a letter to the Supreme Court Chief Justice to request him to constitute a three-judge body to examine the complaints made by various parties about the fairness of the previous polls. The minister said the government would have no objection to recounting of votes in four or ten constituencies, as could satisfy the PTI chairman. But in that case, he said, the government would also seek recount in an equal number of seats won by the PTI.

In his opinion, the proposed judicial commission could not reopen constituencies, but if the PTI wanted the commission to do so, it would have to sit with the government to frame new law for the purpose. In response to a question, the minister said Red Zone, Islamabad, was the most sensitive area and nobody would be allowed to enter it. “It’s like a state within state. If we couldn’t protect it, other countries would raise questions about our ability to protect our nuclear programme,” he said while highlighting the importance of this area.

He said protesters’ entry into the Red Zone could lead to anarchy, a situation which the government would not allow anyone to create.

The minister said MQM chief Altaf Hussain had played an important role in persuading the government to lift siege of Model Town and let the PAT supporters undertake a long march on Islamabad. Mr Altaf, he said, had assured the government that Dr Qadri and his supporters would not try to enter the Red Zone.

The MQM leader has asked the PAT chief to stick to his undertaking to avoid any untoward situation, Khwaja Saad said.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt