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Post Eid Will There be a Political Breakthrough in Pakistan?

In Pakistan the high stakes political game is for power post the next National Assembly elections due in the country post July this year, and the interregnum goal is believed to be the Punjab Assembly polls which have been preponed due to dissolution of the same by Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) which ran the government there. PTI Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan has now claimed that this was done at the advise of then army Chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa.

As the impasse over holding of polls for Punjab Assembly has continued in Pakistan for almost four months now, Pakistan Supreme Court [SC] afforded a temporary respite to the country’s main political parties, giving them a week to develop consensus on the date for elections to the provincial and national assemblies, so they could be held simultaneously across the country.

The three-member bench of the top court — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — sought a progress report on April 27 about the upcoming meeting of political leaders scheduled for April 26.

The Supreme Court's directives came after the PPP and PML-N had assured the SC on April 20 that they would sit with the PTI and try to find a solution on the election date.

This comes as there is intense criticism of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial for indulging in what is seen as a purely political matter for the parties to decide.

The positive statements of leaders representing all major political parties with respect to the simultaneous conduct of general elections has evidently raised some hopes and thus there is a degree of consensus as it appears with possibly the PTI relenting on insisting that polls be held within 90 days and the SC as well accepting that the issue was beyond a judicial decision. Though ambiguity continues as former Prime Minister on April 23 claimed that his party has not been approached by the government.

Towards this end initiatives by Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq — who recently met Prime Minister Imran Khan and PTI Chairman Imran Khan may bear fruit. He has already confirmed to the Supreme Court that dialogue and consultation was not just an option in public affairs, but a duty as enunciated in the Holy Quran.

Haq is attempting to mediate between the various contesting parties in Pakistan – the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf which is led by Imran Khan and which wants early elections and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz which is calling for postponement of the polls.

With the Supreme Court mandating Punjab Assembly polls on May 14th while at the same time also asking the political parties to come up with a viable date for the polls that is acceptable to all sides, Haq is using his good offices to attempt to mediate between the two sides.

Haq embodies a long parliamentary experience, twice elected as a member of the KP provincial assembly -- in 2002 and 2013 -- and served as the provincial finance minister during his both terms.

Importantly it is believed that the Pakistan Army may also be pitching for a politically negotiated solution to the impasse and the JI Chief is known to be close to the military establishment.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Qamar Zaman Kaira speaking on the Geo News programme, Naya Pakistan confirmed that talks were ongoing, “[Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s] Ayaz Sadiq spoke to [PTI’s] Asad Qaiser yesterday at noon” to end the ongoing political crisis in the country.

Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq approached former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser and conveyed the message that "they are ready for talks".

Jamaat-e-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq hinted at a “positive development” with regard to his party’s initiative for talks among the political parties to develop a consensus on holding of the general elections in the country.

He made it clear that the establishment would not interfere in the political dialogue process, asking the institutions to focus on the role defined for them in the Constitution. He said the elections and democracy were purely political matters, hence the politicians should sit together to find the solutions to the prevailing crises in the country.

Amidst the political and security crisis in the country, Pakistan is also struggling to obtain relief on the financial front from the International Monetary Fund [IMF] and talks are ongoing for the revival of the derailed $6.5 billion programme.

Islamabad has been negotiating with the IMF since the end of January for the release of $1.1 billion from a $6.5 billion bailout package agreed upon in 2019. To unlock the funding, the government has cut back on subsidies, removed an artificial cap on the exchange rate, added taxes and raised fuel prices.

However, assurances from friendly nations for additional funds have delayed the agreement.

One final thing needed was a confirmation of a $1 billion commitment from a friendly country as per the Pakistan Finance Minister.

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