Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday formed an 11-member committee comprising representatives of various ruling coalition partners, tasking it with monitoring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s long march and negotiating with the party ahead of their entry to Islamabad.
According to a notification issued by the federal government, the committee would comprise Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah; Information Minister Mariyum Aurangzeb; Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique; Economic Affairs Minister Ayaz Sadiq; Communications Minister Maulana Asad Mahmood; Information Technology Minister Aminul Haque; Science and Technology Minister Agha Hasan Baloch; Adviser to the P.M. on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira; Mian Iftikhar; Hanif Abbasi; and Sardar Khalid Magsi or Ehsanullah Reki, the minister of state for Defense Production.
Sanaullah, Aurangzeb, Rafique, Sadiq and Abbasi all belong to the PMLN; Mahmood represents the JUIF; Haque is from the MQM-P; Baloch belongs to the Balochistan National Party; PPP is represented by Qaira; Magsi and Reki represent the Balochistan Awami Party; and Mian Iftikhar is of the ANP.
In recent days, both the PTI and the ruling coalition have expressed a desire to resolve their differences through dialogue, though the opposition party maintains it is only willing to discuss early elections, while the government insists talks should focus on all pending concerns.
On Friday night, the interior minister participated in an online interaction with the general public through Twitter Spaces, saying the PTI and its chief should agree to hold unconditional talks with the government. “The talks are possible only when Imran Khan Niazi behaves like a politician,” he claimed, saying on preconditions would be acceptable to end the standoff.
Reiterating that the ruling coalition had already decided to conduct elections at the end of Parliament’s constitutional term, he said crowds of “10-12,000” and a few hundred vehicles were not sufficient to pressure the state.
To a question, the minister stressed that the government would not attempt to prevent the PTI’s march—or sit-in—if it were conducted in a peaceful manner. However, he warned, if any attempt is made to “besiege” Islamabad, then the government would use all available resources to push back the protesters. He also rubbished the PTI’s narrative of Pakistan’s problems being resolved through early elections, saying: “Unless we provide relief to the people, the same situation will continue.”