Image Source : AP Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Rawalpindi: In a major U-turn, Pakistan’s incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan has given a green signal to talks with the Shehbaz Sharif-led government and is “ready to forgive” what happened to him for reconciliation, according to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Gohar Khan on Tuesday. Imran has been lodged behind bars for 10 months for his involvement in multiple cases.

“We told the PTI founder that dialogue is necessary, as the distance is widening. He agreed with us (on this),” Gohar told the media outside the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, reported Geo News. Gohar said that Imran wants all avenues of dialogue to be opened and is ready to forgive what he faced for a chance towards reconciliation.

“PTI founder has said many times that ‘I am ready to forgive what happened to me’,” Gohar further said. When asked if the negotiations will take place at the behest of the Supreme Court’s advice, the PTI chairman said: “The option given by the apex court is also under consideration.”

Gohar said the PTI will begin its negotiations after talking to Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who has an alliance with other parties that will be taken into confidence. “Negotiations can also be held at the alliance level. PTI can also initiate itself,” he added.

“We have never refused to negotiate. The ice is breaking. We want things to improve,” said Gohar, insisting that his party’s negotiation offer should not be interpreted as a deal. His remarks came after Imran Khan softened his stance, ordering the leaders to establish contacts both inside and outside the Parliament to ease the ongoing political tensions.

Imran Khan’s ordeal

Imran Khan has been charged in the Toshakhana corruption case, the cipher case for displaying a secret diplomatic cable, cases pertaining to the May 9 riots and others. He remains behind bars at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, while candidates of his party, which was barred from directly contesting the February elections, won the majority of seats but failed to form the government.

In a recent major relief, the PTI founder was acquitted in the cipher case, but Imran Khan was still behind bars due to being sentenced in the illegal marriage case with his wife Bushra Bibi. The former prime minister, who remains widely popular in Pakistan, alleges that the cases are part of an effort by his political rivals and the country’s powerful military to sideline him and keep him from returning to power. Both deny this.

The ex-PM and his deputy Shah Mahmood Qureshi were handed a 10-year sentence in the cipher case for allegedly leaking state secrets. Soon afterwards, he and his wife Bushra Bibi were sentenced to seven years of imprisonment by a trial court in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail in their  ‘un-Islamic’ marriage case.

Why Imran has decided for talks now?

Imran’s decision for reconciliatory talks came after his interaction with Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa when he appeared for a hearing before the Supreme Court. During the hearing pertaining to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law amendments, CJP Isa suggested that Khan go to the Parliament to help resolve Pakistan’s problems “as the country needs to move forward”.

The former prime minister has given his party’s three-member committee the authority to establish contact with the establishment, said the sources. He said last week that dialogue would be held only with those who wield real power in the country. “They (parties in the government) do not have power,” he said.

When pointed out by a journalist that the Supreme Court has also now asked him to talk to other political parties, Imran said he did not even negotiate with (Prime Minister) Shaukat Aziz during the Musharraf era. “I only spoke to Musharraf’s representative,” he said.

(with PTI inputs)

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