- Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refuses to resign in ‘national interest’
- Says complete audit of elections also not possible as it is not permissible under law and constitution
- Imran Khan says won’t end sit-in unless Nawaz Sharif steps down
- Says ‘umpire may raise finger in two days’ if Sharif doesn’t resign
- PTI and PAT say willing to come back on dialogue table if govt removes containers from Red Zone, releases arrested supporters of both parties and promises not to crack down on protesters
There was no breakthrough in the deadlock between the government and protesting parties – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) – on Thursday as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dug in his heels over the calls for his resignation and fresh elections, while PTI Chairman Imran Khan reiterated his resolve of not backing down from his demand of Sharif’s resignation even if it meant staging a sit-in in the federal capital for a year.
Talking to a select group of senior journalists and anchorpersons at Prime Minister’s House, Sharif claimed that no one in the country supported the “extra-constitutional agenda” of the two protesting parties.
“Today all political forces are on the same page and the government will fully respect the mandate of the people,” Prime Minister Sharif said, claiming that 11 of 12 political parties in the parliament were supporting the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.
Sharif said given the regional situation, his resignation would cause great problems for democracy in the country and further aggravate the crisis, which Pakistan could not afford. He also said that dialogue was the only way the stalemate could be resolved.
NO COMPLETE AUDIT:
The prime minister also ruled out complete audit of the 2013 election, saying it was not possible under the law as well as the constitution. He said he had also fulfilled his commitment of not doing politics of 90s, as neither anyone was implicated falsely nor any party’s mandate was stolen.
Contrary to PTI and PAT’s allegations, the premier ruled out the possibility of use of force against the protesters and reiterated that the government wanted to resolve the current political crisis through dialogue.
“We are showing great restraint because women and children are among the protesters,” said Sharif, reiterating that he had become prime minister through a democratic process.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, the premier’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, who was present in the meeting along with six federal ministers, said that Nawaz Sharif’s resignation “is out of the question and so is holding mid-term elections”.
UMPIRE CAN RAISE FINGER:
On the other hand, PTI chief Imran Khan raised many an eyebrow when during an address to his supporters late on Thursday, the cricket star-turned politician said that the “umpire could raise his finger in the next two days” unless Prime Minister Sharif heeds to PTI’s demand of stepping down from office.
“Nawaz Sharif, I’m telling you to resign in the next two days or else the umpire will raise his finger and send you packing,” said a charged Khan, as he delivered more rhetoric in his speech which criticised the Sharif brothers and other politicians.
However, some minutes after making the initial remark, Khan amended it by saying that the people were the umpire he was talking about in his speech. Analysts observing the evolving situation said Khan’s unexpected remark was “very meaningful” and not just a slip or jest.
PAT chief Tahirul Qadri also sent rumour mills into a spin when he claimed in a late night address to his supporters that they would hear “some good news” on Friday night.
Earlier in the day, the PTI and PAT leaderships decided to call off talks with the federal government in protest of what they claimed to be the government’s efforts to prevent movement in Red Zone and initiating a crack down on their workers across Punjab.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters that the party had decided to suspend negotiations until the government stopped the “crackdown against party workers” and registered an FIR against the PML-N supporters who protested in front of his house in Multan.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan had earlier claimed that the government had arrested over 4,000 PTI workers.
The announcement to call off talks came after a delegation of PTI leaders comprising Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, Arif Alvi and Asad Umar met a government-backed team of negotiators late on Wednesday night. The government team included Abdul Qadir Baloch, Ahsan Iqbal and Ijazul Haq among others.
According to reports, the PTI delegation presented a six-point charter of demands, which included the demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
However, the party later in the evening expressed its willingness to resume the dialogue process if the government removed the containers in Red Zone and set free its arrested workers.
QADRI VENTS ANGER:
In his addresses during the day, PAT’s Qadri claimed that the government was actively working to prevent supplies from reaching the protesters.
Calling the current government “a pack of killers”, a charged Qadri said his supporters were both “hungry and thirsty” and were allegedly only being supported by civil society and some parties. He also alleged that the government would try to poison the crowd by sending spoilt food.
Between the barrage of corruption charges targeting the Sharif brothers, the PAT chief said he would “take revenge” for the killing of his workers. Avoiding direct incitement to violence, Qadri tempered his calls for “blood” by saying vengeance would be taken by the courts.
Pledging that the protest would continue, Qadri reassured his supporters “an Inqilab doesn’t just come in a few days…please don’t tire or lose hope”.
Later on Thursday night, the firebrand cleric said that he was still open to talks with the government but they should first allow food and water supplies to reach his supporters besides allowing catering companies to transport canopies for providing shade to the protesters stationed on Constitution Avenue.
Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid in a late night statement said that the government was considering all “constitutional demands” of both parties with sincerity and expressed the hope that it would be able to resolve the crisis through meaningful negotiations.