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Thursday, May 30, 2024  
21 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Khwaja Asif rules out ‘transactional’ talks with Imran Khan

PTI chief is seeking NRO for himself; ruling coalition prepared to face removal from power
Exclusive interview of Khawaja Asif | Will Imran Khan’s cases be dropped?| Faisla Aap Ka

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has said that the Chief Justice of Pakistan had given suggestions to the political parties to create a consensus so that the court could take a decision based on this.

However, he said PTI Chief Imran Khan was seeking NRO for himself during the talks, which he described as “transactional” in nature since they focused only on holding election in Punjab.

The minister instead called for a comprehensive dialogue among all the players including “big businesses” and media to solve the problems that Pakistan faced.

Asif spoke on Aaj News show “Faisla Aap Ka” with Asma Shirazi on Wednesday.

The defense minister said that a question must arise in every mind why there was so much emphasis on holding election in Punjab and not in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Your province is home to 65% of the population, so whichever government takes power could have an impact on the October elections. Keeping this [possibility of a provincial government influencing the outcome of national election] in mind, it was laid down in the constitution that elections should be held on the same day so that wherever the governments are to be formed, they are formed on the same day.”

The minister also commented on the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruling from July when it offered an interpretation of Article 63 A.

Khawaja Asif said that “if you are declaring one thing as permissible under certain circumstances and as illegitimate under certain circumstances, then it does not happen that way”.

He said Pakistan never enjoyed a stable government under Imran Khan but an added element of instability was now being introduced.

In response to a question about the briefing offered to the SC from the ministry of defense, Khawaja Asif said that if the briefing was sought in the court instead of behind the closed doors, it could have been given.

Asma asked if the minister was suggesting that DG-IB, DG-ISI, and DG-MI could have appeared in the court? Asif said that if the court wanted it, it could not have been denied. “Sensitive things could be given in writing, questions and answers could also be given there.”

In response to a question, the defense minister said that the parliament had already made clear its decision two or three days earlier that it could not approve funds for Punjab election.

“After that, the Election Commission of Pakistan also said that it would be better if the elections are held at the same time. In this situation, there are so many institutions that are saying the same thing about the power structure.”

He further said that there is a rift in the judiciary and a schism had emerged. The note of four judges that has come out is on record, so a large part of the elite of this country is on the same page, said the minister.

“I will say very politely that the Parliament also has a role. I think that I am a part of this institution … I am a part of such an institution which is supreme. So rejecting all other institutions is also what you are doing for Punjab.”

Khawaja Asif referred to Imran Khan as “the man who is wearing a dustbin over his citing security threat,” and said that Khan had tried to blackmail the state and dictated his wishes but that was not going to happen.

“Imran Khan says says that if he did not get two-thirds majority, he would not accept the election results and would dissolve the assembly, and at the same time, he is demanding that his cases are withdrawn. The [negotiation] team has come and they have demanded the withdrawal of the case.”

He said that negotiations must be unconditional and comprehensive.

“The negotiations should not be only among politicians. They should include alll those who have been either maintaining power from time to time, or have been coming to power through unconstitutional means, and the people … who have been legitimizing them. They have been making haram halal, all these people are guilty, we politicians are also guilty, all of us. Let’s sit down.”

He said that if the intention is right for negotiations, then the stakeholder can use the platform of the Parliament, where a committee could be formed and PTI, too, could be invited to it.

He said the establishment, bureaucracy, media and big business in the middle could be asked to join the talks. “These are all players, aren’t they. These are all actors on a national stage.”

He said once again that Imran Khan is asking for NRO. He wants the withdrawal ofthe cases and seeking a date for election. “There can be no such thing,” said Khawaja Asif categorically.

But what if the Supreme Court send the Prime Minister home? Asif said that it can also be solved, “If we reach this point or reach this stage, then the solution will come out.”

Asma asked that what will happen if the cabinet is heavily disqualified and a vote of confidence is demanded from the Prime Minister?

In response, he said that if some quarters were willing to scarify everything to please one person, then it could only be called unfortunate. “We are ready for it. These things come and go. Politician lose election and then they start preparing for the next election.”

Khawaja Asif expressed hope that there would be no deadlock between the government and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. “We have a history of 75 years that what the constitution makes clear does not happen.”

Everyone interferes in the domain of others.

On the possibility of martial law and intervention, the defense minister said he did not expect it.

While talking about the Supreme Court Practice and Procedural Bill 2023, the minister said that if there is room for improvement in all the institutions of Pakistan, or if there are any institutions that are involved, they need to be strengthened.

“What we have passed is also a step in that direction. If these measures are taken and the judiciary is a part of them and decisions are made on the basis of equality. That’s why I demand comprehensive negotiations.”

He said that in the current situation, decisions should be made collectively.

In response to another question, he said that if Imran Khan is arrested, there are laws by which he can get relief as well as punishment.

On the question of Nawaz Sharif’s return, Khawaja Asif said that in this confusion, if the PMLN calls Mian Sahib when it doesn’t know what was going to happen tomorrow, it would be putting a lot at stake. The decision should be made with a little thought process.

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Asma Shirazi

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Defense Minister