The storm created by TMQ chief Tahirul Qadri is over, thanks to the correct handling of the crisis by the government. However, this would not have been possible without the clear stand taken by the joint opposition led by Nawaz Sharif and by Imran Khan’s refusal to join the long march.

 

What is needed now is to remove the confusion about the election date and reach an agreement on the caretaker setup at the centre and the provinces. It is highly vital for the government to take the opposition on board on these matters. Zardari’s expected visit to the Raiwind Estate should prove a step towards a satisfactory resolution of these issues.

 

With the National Assembly’s term expiring on March 15, elections have to be held by May 14 in any case. A firm date has, however, yet not been announced by the government for reasons best known to it. On Wednesday, leaders of nine opposition parties called upon the government to announce the election schedule immediately.

 

When Syed Khurshid Shah announced that polls could be held on May 4, 5 or 6, it was immediately clarified by the government that this was only his personal view and that the matter had yet not been discussed at any meeting of the coalition partners.

 

The PPP has meanwhile agreed with Qadri to extend to a month the period for the scrutiny of the candidates’ nomination papers to determine their eligibility under Article 62 and 63 of the constitution. All the more reason, therefore, for the election schedule to be announced without delay.

 

The issue of a caretaker setup is highly sensitive. Any perception of a bilateral deal or collusion between the PPP and PML-N is likely to be resented by other parties in the election. Imran Khan has threatened that his party would take to the streets if other opposition parties were not taken on board.

 

The nomination of caretaker CMs in provinces too is by no means a hassle-free issue. As at the centre, here too the matter could best be settled through a consensus between the leaders of the house and the opposition.

 

A peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to another, the first ever in this country, would strengthen democracy. The government and the opposition have to act with statesmanship to fulfill their historic responsibility.

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