Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday appeared to withdraw from an earlier stance declaring he was ready to talk to anyone except “thieves and looters”—his descriptive for the incumbent government—saying he was now ready to talk to “anyone.”
Claiming in a post on Twitter that he would not avoid any sacrifice for the sake of Pakistan and democracy, he wrote: “I am ready to talk to anyone and I am ready to take every step in this direction.” The former prime minister did not offer any further details, but PTI spokesperson Farrukh Habib told daily Dawn that the offer only extended to discussions on free and fair elections, and not corruption.
The PTI chief’s offer comes a day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended a similar offer for dialogue to Khan, emphasizing that all political forces of the country needed to sit together and work toward ridding the country of its prevailing political and economic crises.
Speaking with a delegation of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors at Prime Minister’s House, Sharif lamented that he had invited the PTI for talks twice already but it had refused to participate. “Though politicians are always ready for dialogue, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has a history of not responding positively in this regard,” he regretted, adding that the party had even refused to attend an Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar to deliberate on a resurgence of terrorism.
However, highlighting the stumbling block to all talks between the government and the PTI, the premier made it clear that the government would not proceed toward early general elections, which he said would take place upon the conclusion of the current parliamentary term. He also criticized Khan for “defying” court orders, indicating that any potential talks will not come without plenty of rancor.
Police have been attempting to arrest Khan on court orders since Tuesday but have been repeatedly pushed back by PTI supporters, who have pelted cops with sticks, stones and petrol bombs. The standoff was suspended on Thursday after the PTI sought a suspension of the court orders from both the Lahore High Court and the Islamabad High Court. The IHC, however, directed the party to seek relief from the trial court that had issued the warrants. This was denied. The LHC, meanwhile, is continuing to prevent police from acting against Khan, though the judge has remarked that there is no bar on police executing the warrant for the PTI chief.