The severe impasse between the ruling coalition led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seems to be resolved as Jammat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq has offered mediation to resolve the conflict that has been lingering since last year.
The archrivals PDM and PTI have also shown flexibility and instantly accepted the mediation offer of the JI chief. Not only this, both sides have also formulated panels to hold negotiations aimed at minimizing the simmering political tensions.
The PML-N tasked Ayaz Sadiq and Saad Rafique with holding talks, while the PTI formed a three-member panel comprising Pervez Khattak, Mehmoodur Rashid, and Ejaz Chaudhry to hold talks via Jammat-e-Islami.
This all happened in the blink of an eye, and the swift acceptance of the mediation offer and formation of the negotiation team indicate that both sides have realized that negotiations are the last resort.
Here the question arises: will both sides reach a consensus through indirect dialogues under the mediation of the Jammat-e-Islami?
Conducting elections in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies as per the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is the bone of contention between the PDM and the PTI.
The country’s political crisis has become so intense that it has resulted in apparent division among senior judges of the apex court. The Supreme Court’s eight-member bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, has ruled that elections in Punjab must be held on May 14. The apex court has also directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, the apex court’s eight-member bench, led by CJP Bandial, was termed controversial’ by the ruling coalition ahead of the hearing of the case, which clearly indicates that the ruling alliance has no intentions to comply with the orders of the apex court.
On the other hand, the Defence Ministry has also excused itself from providing security personnel for the elections, citing the engagement of troops in combating a fresh wave of terrorism in the country.
The PDM is afraid of being charged with contempt of the Supreme Court, and the PTI is anxious that contempt proceedings against the premier will also take time, and that would surely cause further delay in the elections.
In the given circumstances, both sides were left with no option other than to hold dialogues to resolve the conflict that has badly affected the economy of the country and hiked inflation by leaps and bounds.
This dialogue initiative is a good omen, but the talks will not yield any positive outcome for two primary reasons: first, it’s an indirect dialogue, and second, both sides will attempt to persuade the other to agree to their stance, which is almost impossible.
The entire future of the politics of both the PTI and the PML-N depends on the timing of holding elections. Inflation is at its worst, and the public is furious over the frequent and prominent increase in prices of fuel, electricity, gas, and other necessities. Moreover, PTI has successfully delivered its narrative that their government was toppled through a regime-change conspiracy, which would also give them the benefit of posing as a victim.
In such a situation, there are very few chances that the PML-N will achieve victory in general elections; therefore, it wants to delay the elections till the economic indicators become stable. On the other hand, the current scenario would play a key role in winning elections.
No one will agree to lose the ball, and hence the negotiations mitigated by Jamaat-e-Islami will just be an episode of engagement in dialogue that will only give news updates to the media and lead to no conclusion.
It should be kept in mind that last week the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also formed a three-member body comprising Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani, Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar, and PM’s Adviser on Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira to engage with allies in the coalition government to reach a consensus on dialogue with the PTI.
As the PPP panel is from within the ruling coalition, it is expected that dialogue could bring results if it acted with commitment to break the impasse. Otherwise, indirect talks under the supervision of Jamaat-e-Islami will not be productive in terms of diffusing political tensions.