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Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said ex-prime minister Imran Khan is ready to sit with PM Shehbaz Sharif to negotiate the date for early elections if the PM announces it and the move is guaranteed by “powerful quarters”.

The Awami Muslim League leader, during an interview with the Urdu service of Voice of America, blamed “misunderstandings as the reason for strained ties” between the former ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and the establishment.

“This should not have happened. When the Balochistan Awami Party, Muttahida Quami Movement-Pakistan and almost half members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid [allies of the former government] started leaving the PTI, we realized that we had made a mistake somewhere.”

The former minister said that he had started mending the relationship between the PTI and establishment, but he was yet to receive a response from the other side. “I do not believe in clashes with the establishment,” he said adding that while he supported the army, he would stand with Imran Khan if the two were on opposing sides.

He also said that he expected the relationships between the two to be back on track soon.

When asked about the issue he was referring to between the political party and the establishment, he declined to comment. “I can’t share the issue.”

When asked how the relationship could be put back on track, he said the PTI had a one-point agenda of early and fair election.

He said the PTI had decided May 31 as the date to head to Islamabad protest towards Islamabad. “If Imran Khan is able to gather supporters and bring them to Islamabad, we will not leave the federal capital till the date of election is announced.”

Rashid was also asked about his earlier claims on defeating the no-confidence motion against ex-PM Imran Khan. He said: “I have trusted the MQM-P because I know them since the time of Muhajir Quami Movement. However, when they departed I realized that we were going to be defeated. I think they made a mistake this time.”

The former interior minister rejected allegations of inciting violence against PM Shehbaz and his delegation at the Masjid-e-Nabwi. “They will face the same situation, wherever they go. Few thousand people chanted slogans against them in Madina. However, they will encounter a crowd of millions against them in London.”

When asked about the federal ministers’ plan to register an FIR against Rashid over the Masjid-e-Nabwi incident, he said it was their job. He added that he was among those politicians who had spent a considerable time in prison over his beliefs.

“Confrontation with institutions”

The former interior minister was asked whether the situation between the PTI and state institutions had become “confrontational”.

He said that all such situations would be resolved once “the election date is announced with mutual consensus”.

Rashid said he was “ready to play a role in case of clash between Imran Khan and institutions, but I stand with Imran, if a war like situation emerged between the two.”

When he was reminded of his earlier comments in which he claimed that he stood with the establishment, Rashid said: “Imran is right in this war. No matter it is an international conspiracy or interference, but injustice was done with him.”

In response to a question of formula to resolve the crisis, the former interior minister said, “The only possible way to move forward with democracy is early elections. But I do not want martial law to be imposed in the country. The establishment does not want it either.”

Rashid ruled out rumours that Imran Khan wanted martial law to be imposed in the country. “Imran wants early elections.”