The Pakistan government on Saturday invited Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party for holding "unconditional talks", saying negotiations are part of the political process and complex problems are resolved when two sides hear each other out.
Addressing a joint press conference with Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party should sit down and negotiate with the government to resolve the impasse over holding early general elections.
At the same time, they said that threats and talks cannot go together.
The development comes after PTI chief Imran Khan on Friday warned that he would dissolve the assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces ruled by his party if the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif did not sit down for talks and announce dates for the general elections.
The federal government led by Prime Minister Sharif is opposed to holding elections now. The term of the current National Assembly will end in August 2023.
Mr Khan, 70, last week announced that his lawmakers would resign from the provincial assemblies as he withdrew a threat to march on the capital Islamabad by saying that it would result in destruction.
"They should sit with us for unconditional talks,"Mr Rafique said.
"It is them, who need talks, not us. They start the talk of talks and then shy away from even talking about it," he said, adding, "Negotiations are part of the political process and complex problems are resolved when two sides hear each other out." The minister also said that dissolution of assemblies was not an act to be proud of for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led government.
"We want the assemblies to complete their constitutional term," he said.
Mr Rafique also asserted that if Mr Khan is serious, he should understand that "threats and negotiations are mutually exclusive".
Mr Khan, the former cricketer-turned-politician, who was ousted as prime minister in April this year after a no-confidence motion was passed in the National Assembly, is seeking fresh general elections in Pakistan.
He had warned that around 66 per cent of Pakistan would have to vote for by-polls if the government in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa dissolved the assemblies.
The railway minister further said the government's allies have severe concerns about holding talks with the PTI.
He added that the government will hold unofficial talks with PTI, but the party was told that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will be the one to decide if they wanted a dialogue.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had on Friday offered a cautious welcome to Mr Khan's offer for talks.
"When politicians sit tighter, issues are sorted out. Imran Khan used to say that it is better for me to die than sitting with the government for talks. There is change in him. Our government always believes in talks," he had said.
Mr Khan is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He had alleged that the no-confidence vote was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan. The US has denied the allegations.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)