Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday called for national unity among the political leadership to address the cash-strapped country's challenges, a day after he extended an olive branch to ousted premier Imran Khan for a dialogue to resolve the ongoing political and economic crises.
Speaking in the Senate during a session to mark its golden jubilee celebration, Sharif said economic stability could not be achieved without political stability.
He said that the coalition government led by him had sacrificed their politics for the country's sake by taking up the mantle during tough economic times.
"The fact of the matter is that when we took over, our economy was facing very difficult challenges. We had negotiated and signed the agreement with the IMF but we did not adhere to it. We didn't respect the terms and conditions [and] flouted them which damaged Pakistan's image, trust and confidence," he said.
Sharif added that a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was expected soon.
Underlining that Pakistan was facing serious political and economic challenges, he said that all parties needed to align their goals for a better Pakistan.
"Let us brighten the future of Pakistan. We should strive, not conspire, remove hurdles instead of creating the [and] unite the nation instead of creating division,” the prime minister was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Khan also struck a reconciliatory tone, saying he was ready to "talk to anyone" and "render any sacrifice" for the sake of the country's uplift, interest and democracy.
"I will not refrain from any sacrifice for the sake of Pakistan’s uplift, interest and democracy," 70-year-old Khan tweeted on Thursday. "I am willing to talk to anyone and take every step towards it." Khan also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the people of Pakistan who joined him "in the struggle for true freedom and to our workers from all over Pakistan, including Lahore." A day earlier, Prime Minister Sharif said that all political forces will have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises.
"All political forces will have to sit together to take the country forward,” he said while talking to a delegation of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors.
However, he lamented that he had invited PTI for talks on two occasions in the recent past, but the party did not turn up. "Though politicians always resort to dialogue, PTI has a history of not responding positively in this regard," he noted.
Khan has been facing a slew of cases since his ouster in April last year through a no-trust vote. He claims that he has been facing about 80 cases.
He has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
He was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan in October last year for not sharing details of the sales. The election body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him under criminal laws for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Islamabad Zafar Iqbal on February 28 issued non-bailable arrest orders against Khan in the Toshakhana case about the concealment of the proceeds from the sale of state gifts. The judge directed the capital city police to bring him to court by March 18.
Khan's Zaman Park residence turned into a battleground on Tuesday after PTI workers engaged in pitched battles with policemen to stop them from arresting their leader in the Toshakhana case, resulting in injuries to more than 60 people, mostly policemen.
Although the Rangers and police have halted the operation to arrest the former cricketer-turned-politician till Friday at the Lahore High Court's direction, a heavy contingent of police remained stationed on all roads leading to his residence.
Since his ouster, Khan has been asking for early elections to oust what he termed an "imported government" led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.
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