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Imran Khan can talk with PM Shahbaz on early elections polls: Sheikh Rashid

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Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said he was working to dispel the “misunderstandings” between Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the institution, asserting that former Prime Minister Imran Khan can sit down with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the issue of holding early polls if (early elections) are guaranteed by “powerful quarters”.

Mr. Rashid, who, as leader of the Awami-Pakistan National League, continued to serve in the PTI-led coalition government, said the PTI would organize a long march towards the federal capital by the end of the month and the protesters would remain in Islamabad until the announcement of the date of the elections.

He said that the PTI should not have faced any state institution and that the party should rather have met with the Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to persuade the commission on early polls.

“I began yesterday’s efforts to eliminate misunderstandings between them (PTI and the establishment),” he said in an interview with foreign media on Monday.

“I am in favor of peace with the army, but in case of “war”, I will back Imran Khan,” said Mr. Rashid.

He agreed that there was something wrong [with the last regime] because of which allies such as the Baluchistan Awami Party (BAP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) have splited from PTI.

He stated that Mr. Khan was prepared to hold talks with the Sharif government for early parliamentary elections, but that this required the guarantee of “powerful quarters”.

When the PTI was in power, Mr. Khan had repeatedly said that he would never sit down with “corrupt” rulers like the Sharif on “any matter”.

Following the non-confidence vote against Mr. Khan last month, the former opposition parties formed a coalition government with PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif as premier.

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Mr. Rashid declared that the army wished to maintain the continuity of democracy and that the only way to maintain it was to hold early elections, otherwise, neither the PTI nor the government under PML-N would survive.

The head of the AML said: “Imran Khan will bring millions of people together in Islamabad and in this case, the country would go into a state of uncertainty that can lead to civil war.”

PTI leader Imran Khan announced on Saturday a march towards Islamabad during the last week of May.

Mr. Rashid said that if Mr. Khan managed to bring large numbers of people to Islamabad, his policy would prevail while his only demand was for early elections.

“The PTI does not want to overthrow the government, but the protesters will not return from Islamabad without the announcement of the date for the general elections,” he added.

Speaking of the fall of the PTI government, he said that there were “some misunderstandings with the institutions” that should not have taken place. He said that he was against a conflict with the military and that he always wished for “reconciliation”.

When asked to explain the specific reasons behind the differences between Mr. Khan and the military, the minister refused to answer. However, he said, he had begun to make efforts as of May 1st to eliminate the “misunderstanding”.

Mr. Rashid said he had nothing to do with the Masjid-i-Nabwi incident, but it was clear that the current leaders would be ‘welcomed in a similar way everywhere they go’.

Regarding the chanting of slogans against the members of the delegation led by PM Shahbaz Sharif at the holy mosque, he said he had spent many years in jail in spurious cases in the past and was still ready for arrest. He stated that he intended to withdraw from politics, but that, under the current circumstances, he would participate in the elections at the behest of Mr. Khan.

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