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Pakistan’s leading Opposition leader Maryam Nawaz on Thursday indicated to hold talks with the powerful army to reduce the prevailing political tension in the country, but said any such dialogue should be held openly in front of the people – not in secret. Maryam, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President and daughter of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, however, said that any such dialogue should be held only after the Imran Khan-led “selected” government was sent packing.

“Army is my institution. We are ready to hold talks (with the army) but only within the framework of the Constitution And such talks will be held right before the eyes of the people. We will not hold any secret dialogue, she said in an interview with BBC Urdu. She added that any such dialogue would be held from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement an alliance of 11 opposition parties formed to oust the Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf: government. “We are not against the institution (of the army) but we believe that in order to move forward, this government should be sent packing,” she said.

Maryam, who is currently campaigning in Gilgit-Baltistan, said that “establishment’ was trying to contact her close aides but she had not been contacted so far.” She is leading Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in absence of her father Nawaz Sharif who has been living in London since November 2019. Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif is in custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), leaving it to Maryam to lead the party. Sharif, the 70-year-old supreme leader of the PML-N who was ousted from power in 2017 by the apex court on graft charges, had last month for the first time directly named Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI head Lt Gen Faiz Hameed for interfering in the general elections of 2018 to ensure victory of Khan.

However, the Army has denied meddling in the country’s politics. Prime Minister Khan also denies that the Army helped him win the election in 2018. The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Maryam has been criticising Imran Khan’s government while maintaining pressure on the establishment. The indication to hold talks with the army was being interpreted as a change in her party policy. However, senior PML-N leader and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Geo TV that what Maryam said was not new and his party has been demanding a dialogue with all stakeholder to pull the country out of the current difficulties.

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