Zardari holds out olive branch to Imran’s party

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ISLAMABAD: Holding out an olive branch to the PTI, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to initiate ‘unconditional’ talks with the opposition, as “the door for talks should never be closed in politics”.

“The prime minister has the authority to initiate talks. I will request Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to hold talks with the opposition,” Zardari said while addressing a joint session of parliament on Monday.

The PPP co-chairman, who served as the country’s 11th president from 2008 to 2013, also advised the opposition, the PTI, not to set any preconditions for talks.

Zardari offer came as PTI senior leader Fawad Fawad Chaudhry had praised the PPP for passing a resolution stating that it did not want to become party to the campaign to malign judges and asserting that political parties did not block negotiations.

“The PTI is also for the holding of dialogues and wants that the establishment, government, and opposition should sit together, discuss and give space — while acknowledging the right of election,” Chaudhry had said while speaking at a news conference in Lahore last week, where he applauded what he called the “political acumen” demonstrated by Asif Ali Zardari’s party.

The former president said, the opposition will also have to sit down across the table with Shehbaz “as he is the prime minister of the country”.

Referring to the legacy of his party, he said: “We have been protecting Pakistan and will continue to protect it in future. We will hand down an integrated and not disintegrated Pakistan to the next generation.

The former president claimed that his party would not allow anyone to violate the Constitution. He said the pro-democracy forces have always been conspired against throughout the history of the country. “We will, however, continue to safeguard democracy as long as we are alive. Pakistan will rise again,” he added.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who also serves as the foreign minister in Prime Minister Shehbaz’s cabinet, also called for unity among political and democratic forces, while adding that all institutions should work in their constitutional ambit to bring Pakistan out of various problems including  inflation, unemployment and terrorism

Speaking at a convention held in connection with the golden jubilee celebrations of the 1973 constitution, he said the undemocratic forces have always taken advantage of differences among the politicians and political parties in the past.

“It was about time to forge unity and work jointly for political and economic stability in the country,” he added. He said the 1973 constitution which was unanimously passed by the parliament had ensured the integrity of the country.

“April 10 is a historic day and this day should be a part of the syllabus so that the new generation knows the importance of the constitution.”

He said PPP founder and former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto united the broken and scattered country through a unanimous constitution in 1973,

“The Constitution of 1973 gave the country a way forward to tread the path of progress and constitutionalism. [PPP former chairperson] Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and [former premier] Nawaz Sharif inked a charter of democracy (CoD) in 2006 as the undemocratic forces always took advantage of differences and communication gaps among the political forces in the past.

“The PPP not only restored the 1973 constitution in letter and spirit but also provided rights to the provinces besides giving them their identity

“However, undemocratic forces started conspiracies against the CoD and imposed a selected prime minister aimed at abrogating the unanimous constitution of 1973 and clearing the way for setting up of One Unit again in the country,” he said.

Bilawal said some elements in various institutions did not want the CoD and unity among political forces.

“Such elements wanted their selected rule in the country besides imposing a selected [PM] again for their personal gains. They had a 10-year plan and if that doctrine continued, there would be the murder of merit in other institutions,” he added.

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