'Let's sit down and talk': Pak PM Shehbaz Sharif extends olive branch to jailed Imran Khan

Sharif's olive branch to Imran came a day after his advisor indicated to keep Khan in jail for an indefinite period.
Last Updated : 26 June 2024, 14:38 IST

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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday extended an olive branch to his predecessor and political rival Imran Khan, offering to hold talks with him if he was facing "troubles" in jail.

Khan, the founder of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, has been in jail since August last year after being convicted in some of the nearly 200 cases slapped on the 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician since his ouster from power in April 2022.

"If their [PTI] founder is facing troubles [in jail], then I reiterate: come, let's sit down and talk," Sharif said while addressing the National Assembly.

“Let us sit together to take the country ahead. Let us talk for the betterment of the country. There is no other way forward,” he said.

Sharif's olive branch to Imran came a day after his advisor indicated to keep Khan in jail for an indefinite period.

Sharif's political advisor Rana Sanaullah said during a TV interview that the government would like to keep Khan in jail as long as possible.

"A new case can be registered. If searched here and there, some new cases can come up. There should be an effort, and it will be, that the longer he is kept as a guest (in jail) the better it will be,” was the response of Sanullah when asked if Khan would be released after bail in the final conviction against him.

The Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have been at loggerheads for years, particularly after the February 8 elections, which Khan's party claims it had won.

Commenting on the 2018 elections won by Khan's PTI, Sharif said: "We joined Parliament despite the [rigged] polls. The sort of slogans that were raised during my first speech will always be remembered as a dark chapter in the history books." "If someone is facing any injustice, then I believe that the scales of justice should be in favour of those [being victimised], there is no difference over it — whether it be any politician or anyone from any walk of life," Geo News quoted Sharif as saying.

Sharif lamented that he had once again, while he was in the opposition, proposed to Khan to sit for a dialogue but such slogans were raised again.

"So who is responsible for this bitterness [between politicians]? We don't even shake hands now," he said.

Sharif, 72, also recounted his ordeal of facing victimisation by Khan's government and that he was in jail when his mother passed away.

He said that despite being a cancer survivor and with a backbone issue, he used to be taken to courts on the ordinary prison van just to exacerbate the condition, but he never complained.

In response to Prime Minister Sharif's remarks, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub Khan reiterated that the PTI would talk with the government only when Khan and other incarcerated leaders and workers are released from jail.

"This should be in your minds: you torture our workers, you've kept our lady workers in prison vans at 45°C. My prime minister Imran Khan was kept in a death cell, there's an oven-like environment over there," he said, amidst sloganeering from the treasury benches.

"I want to say to the Prime Minister of Form 47 that the matter will happen when my Prime Minister comes out, the matter will happen when my prisoners come out, this house will be able to run when we are respected," PTI leader Omar Ayub Khan said.

The opposition taunts with Form 47 which was used by the Election Commission of Pakistan to tabulate the results of each electoral district. Khan's PTI says that the party won the maximum number of seats in the February 8 election and the PML-N along with some other parties stole their mandate.

Published 26 June 2024, 14:38 IST

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