In response to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chair­man Imran Khan’s latest offer of talks, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — a major partner in the coalition government — refused to budge from their stance that next general elections will be held as per schedule in October 2023.

However, soon after the offer, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting of the ruling PML-N leaders and decided that moving a no-confidence motion against present provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa (KP) would not be a sagacious move and thus the coalition government would go for “wait and see” policy, a source in the ruling party told Dawn.

He said the meeting did not rule out negotiations with the PTI but it was decided that next general elections would be held on time.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, soon after Imran Khan’s offer, replied in a tweet in two words — “Elections 2023”.

“October 2023” was the ultimate election month, the minister said in a tweet in reference to a news channel’s report about Mr Khan’s proposal for talks for the snap polls’ date in a threatening tone. She advised Mr Khan to wait for next general elections till October 2023.

Also, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in a private TV programme, said that the government stuck to its stance that elections would be held in Oct 2023.

“We can sit for talks with PTI but on any other issue except snap elections,” he said when asked about PML-N meeting, chaired by the PM.

He said the coalition government came into power through a constitutional way and it reserved rights to complete its constitutional term [till Oct 2023].

Similarly, PML-N leader and interior minister Rana Sanaullah said in a statement that deadlocks always ended through dialogues but the government decided that next elections would take place on time.

He, however, said if Mr Khan dissolved provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP, the government would give a robust response to the PTI chief’s move. He also reminded Mr Khan of his statement “he would prefer to die than to sit with them [PDM leaders]”.

He said the government would condemn if the PTI attempted to dissolve assemblies as it would still be an ‘undemocratic action’ even if it would favour his party. He said the PTI would itself be responsible if it dissolved Punjab and KP assemblies.

Mr Sanaullah said the government would not refuse dialogue with the PTI as it believed in resolving political matters in a political manner. “When political parties and politicians sit down, deadlocks end and paths to resolve conflicts are found,” he remarked.

MARRIYUM AURANGZEB: The government’s spokesperson, while challenging Imran Khan, asked him to go ahead with his announcement that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies would soon be dissolved shunned the impression that PML-N was running away from elections keeping PTI’s winning streak in view.

On Thursday, PTI expressed its willingness to talk to the federal government on the next elections, saying it could accept elections in the coming August or September if the ruling alliance first announces the date for snap polls and shares an economic plan.

However, she had plainly rejected the offer on grounds that no negotiations could take place, especially, when PTI linked it with certain demands.

Marriyum said that the two sides lacked common agenda to initiate dialogue as PTI wants snap polls while the government would not budge from its stance of holding the elections on time.

A day after conveying the offer of talks through anonymous PTI leaders, former PM and PTI chairman formally offered conditional talks to the government on Friday asking it to announce the date for general elections or else provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be dissolved.

Marriyum, while talking to The Express Tribune, also clarified that neither overt nor covert negotiations were being held with the former ruling party and any speculations about such talks were merely that – just speculations.

PML-N leadership has come out of the shadows days after a key PML-N leader, requesting not to be named, had revealed that PML-N was ready for elections. While challenging the PTI chief, the PML-N leader had said that Imran shouldn’t waste time and dissolve the assemblies immediately.

“We are ready for elections; no heaven will fall; the most that can happen is that we can lose but that shouldn’t be a reason to block Imran’s move and delay polls,” he had said.

On the option of imposing the governor’s rule, he said that “it is no joke to impose governor’s rule”, saying it requires so many grounds and even if such a decision is taken, it would be difficult to sustain it for long as it can be challenged and the courts can strike it down.

To a question about PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s return before the general elections, he had said that it was up to PML-N to go ahead with or without Sharif and that there would be plenty of time for taking a decision in this regard. “We would have at least three months to bring back Nawaz Sharif, if needed,” he said, “it’s more than enough for us.”

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