ISLAMABAD: A senior member of ousted premier Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said on Wednesday talks with the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif were possible if the government announced it was ready to hold snap polls, even without specifying a date for the elections.
Khan, who was ousted in April in a parliamentary vote of no confidence, has repeatedly called for early elections but Sharif and the ruling coalition say elections will be held on schedule in August 2023.
The statement from Asad Umar, PTI general secretary and former federal minister, came a day after Khan ally Chaudhry Parvez Elahi took oath as chief minister of Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
“We can have a discussion on a fresh start,” Umar said in the current affairs program Breaking Point with Mohammad Malick. “It’s not about a date. It’s about them [ruling coalition] saying ‘we are ready for an immediate or early election, come let’s sit and talk’. First they need to say we are ready to hold an election.”
When asked if PTI was ready for talks even if the government did not specify a date for the next election, Umar said:
“Yes, [if the government says] we are ready to hold snap polls and Shehbaz Sharif announces this on the floor of the house [in parliament] or tells the nation that we [ruling coalition] have also come to the conclusion that elections are the only solution from here … then we can talk after.”
Umar said his party chief Khan was also in agreement on this point of view.
“When the early election is announced, he [PM] cannot say that the elections will be held in March [next year], early means soon, right,” Umar added.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday night, Khan repeated his demand for an early election.
“A new election commission should be formed to conduct transparent elections,” Khan said in a televised speech.
Earlier this month Khan’s party listed an impressive electoral victory in crucial Punjab assembly by-polls — a major setback for PM Sharif whose son Hamza Shehbaz was chief minister of the province.
Now PTI and its allies rule two of Pakistan’s four provinces.