As a result of an initiative taken by members of the civil society to resolve the ongoing political crisis, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has agreed to sit with rival political parties for the sake of greater national consensus on elections. Given how the situation has deteriorated in recent times, this is an encouraging development, however, expectations should be kept in check regarding how successful the dialogue will be in breaking the deadlock.
Reports reveal that while Mr Khan was in no mood to sit down with his political rivals, the delegation of civil society actors convinced him that other parties were also valid stakeholders in the political and electoral process. The PTI has for a long time struggled to understand this fact, that despite ideological and political differences, the opposing parties are legitimate stakeholders in the system and engaging with them is critical for the democratic process.
Sources suggest that Mr Khan also demanded confidence-building measures before agreeing to the multi-party conference proposal, but the delegation made it clear that civil society can only play a facilitating role, and that the political parties have to sort these issues out among themselves. Given the rhetoric witnessed from both sides, it seems unlikely that the government is in the mood to make any such overtures. But the PTI’s confrontational strategy and the PDM government’s heavy-handed tactics are only making the situation worse.
It is encouraging to hear that some moderates within the PTI have been pushing for a reduction in political tensions, but it remains to be seen if the senior leadership can be convinced to reach across the aisle. The PTI has snubbed offers to hold talks in the past as well. Further, these parties are more than capable of holding dialogue on their own if the will exists, because a lot of these politicians wine and dine behind closed doors while spewing incendiary rhetoric in front of the public. What is required is a realisation on part of these actors that the national interest and stability is at stake. It remains to be seen how the other political parties respond to this initiative, but the fact of the matter is that both the PTI and PDM will want to hold talks on their own terms. Therefore, optimism regarding breaking the ongoing deadlock should be kept in check.