PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s offer for talks, made at the meeting of the Punjab parliamentary party on Friday, was rejected out of hand by the PDM coalition, which was perhaps to be expected. It should not be forgotten that Mr Khan had last made such an offer before his Long March on Islamabad, with the implication being that he would cancel it. The Long March failed to force the PDM’s hand, but his present offer carries the implication that he might reconsider his decision to dissolve the KP and Punjab Assemblies. The PDM is clearly uncomfortable about the idea that the talks would only finalize a close enough election date, rather than discuss, as the PDM would prefer, all Assemblies going to full term.
The PDM should not ignore a number of factors. First, it should think carefully about the implications of holding provincial elections in more than half the country, and having to live with the results. By agreeing to earlier National Assembly elections, they would ha\ve an input into the date of provincial elections they do not presently enjoy. It should also realize that this is the last move on the political chessboard that Mr Khan has. That means that he will be more inclined to take radical and desperate action. It therefore makes sense to give him a way out, if that is what he seeks.
It is not as if the PTI and the PDM are that far apart. This is perhaps one effect of the passage of time. By next August, the PDM will have to concede an election date in October. No matter if the government dissolved tomorrow, the Election Commission is obliged by law to give an election schedule of a minimum 45 days. Thus no election is possible before mid-January. Splitting the difference would give a date in May, which would be hot, but there has been one election held in summer, so a May date is not as unthinkable as it once was. It is true that there is nothing but custom to make it necessary to hold elections on the same day, but there is also nothing sacred about the assemblies’ tenure, and the constitutional provisions for an early dissolution, do not have to be used, but they are there to give politicians what they need at present, greater leeway in handling political crises.