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Business Leader Urges PM Shehbaz Sharif to Extend Olive Branch to Imran Khan, Calls for Improved India-Pakistan Relations

A prominent business leader in the country has advised Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to extend an olive branch to his political rival, the incarcerated founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan.

Imran Khan, the former prime minister, remains in custody on various criminal charges, including those under the Official Secrets Act, terrorism, and corruption. Khan was ousted from power in April 2022 through an opposition no-confidence motion, which the PTI alleged was orchestrated with support from the United States.

Khan was arrested in August of the previous year after being convicted in the Toshakhana case. Subsequently, he faced further convictions related to undisclosed marriages, with appeals pending in the courts.

The suggestion to engage with Imran Khan was made during Prime Minister Shehbaz’s visit to Karachi, where he interacted with the business community, addressing their concerns on trade and the economy. During a Q&A session, business magnate Arif Habib commended Shehbaz’s efforts in securing a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during his previous tenure.

Habib proposed that the Prime Minister should “shake two more hands” – one with neighboring India to improve bilateral relations and another with Imran Khan, currently detained in Adiala jail, to promote stability within the country.

Relations between Pakistan and India deteriorated after India’s unilateral decision to change the special status of the occupied valley in August 2019, leading Pakistan to suspend trade relations. Pakistan has linked the normalization of ties with India to the restoration of the special status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

During his visit to Karachi, Prime Minister Shehbaz also met with Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. He assured the provincial government of full support in resolving their issues, emphasizing the importance of collaboration for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan.

The Prime Minister pledged to work closely with Sindh, addressing concerns raised about the province’s inclusion in new development schemes, which had reportedly been overlooked by the federal government in recent years.

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