ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday urged all stakeholders in the country to move toward a “national dialogue” to resolve Pakistan’s complex issues on its 76th Independence Day.
Pakistan is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its freedom from the British rule in the subcontinent. The country’s diamond jubilee has arrived at a time when political temperature is on the rise, and former prime minister Imran Khan has accused the ruling coalition of benefitting from a “US-backed conspiracy” to overthrow his administration earlier this year.
“We need to have a national dialogue so that the mistakes of the past can be clearly identified,” Sharif said during a flag hoisting ceremony in Islamabad on Sunday. “We need to start a sincere struggle to reform [Pakistan’s] state of affairs.”
The prime minister said all political factions in the country should try to reach an agreement on a “charter of economy” at the outset of the proposed national dialogue.
“If we [Pakistan] can become a nuclear power, why can’t we become an economic power,” he asked.
In an Independence Day statement, Sharif earlier described Pakistan’s creation as the outcome of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s single-minded devotion, unflinching resolve and unwavering struggle.
“Nothing is more dangerous for a nation than internal divisions, disruption and chaos; for such negative forces undermine the solidarity and integrity of the country and rob societies of their national purpose,” he said.
“We can push back the divisive and nihilistic forces with the power of the people and protect our freedom and identity," the statement added. "I have my full faith in their capabilities to chart a way forward.”
Commenting on the proposed national dialogue, parliamentary secretary for information and broadcasting Muhammad Shahbaz Babar said the prime minister believed all issues facing the country, including its deteriorating economy, could be addressed by its people and political leadership.
“We cannot resolve our issues through public gatherings, press conferences and speeches,” he said. “We will have to sit together to work out a comprehensive plan to move forward.”
Asked if the government had reached out to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to build consensus on outstanding issues, Babar said the top leaders of the coalition government could do it in the coming weeks.
“All political parties and other relevant stakeholders should understand the gravity of issues Pakistan is faced with and come up with viable solutions instead of just giving public sermons on the ills and problems,” he continued.
However, senior PTI vice president Chaudhry Fawad Hussain dismissed the idea of “charter of economy” by describing it as “bizarre and comical.”
“Shehbaz Sharif administration has wreaked havoc with the national economy which was stabilized by [former] prime minister Imran Khan’s government,” he told Arab News.
However, he recognized that political parties should engage each other while calling it “the need of the hour” in the country.
“We need freely, fairly and justly held elections,” Hussain emphasized, adding the PTI was open to engagement if the prime minister dissolved federal legislature and announced the date of the next general elections.