- Prime Minister Sharif asks Gen Sharif to help resolve standoff with Qadri and Khan
- PAT and PTI chiefs delay final deadlines to govt for 24 hours after calls from army chief
- Sources say PAT and PTI leaders likely to back down from demand of PM’s resignation if Gen Sharif gives guarantee of fair probes into Model Town killings and alleged rigging in last year’s elections
- WSJ report says PM Sharif has reached agreement with Gen Sharif wherein armed forces will control strategic policy areas such as relations with US, Afghanistan and India
The political stalemate appears to be nearing a breakthrough after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday “asked” Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to help resolve the standoff between the government and protesting parties, following which the General offered to play the role of ‘mediator’ and ‘guarantor’ to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, which both leaders readily accepted.
According to official sources privy to the developments that took place in a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and General Sharif on Thursday, the premier asked the army chief to play his role in resolving the crisis.
“Gen Sharif told the prime minister that he was willing to mediate between the two sides but the government should first order the registration of the FIR of the Model Town killings as per Qadri’s demand, which was duly accepted by the premier,” said the sources.
QADRI, KHAN LIKELY TO WITHDRAW FROM PM’S RESIGNATION DEMAND:
Sources told Pakistan Today’s Mian Abrar in Islamabad that this was not the first time the prime minister had made this request to the army chief.
“It was on Prime Minister Sharif’s request that the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement urging the protesting parties to come on the dialogue table to resolve the issue peacefully,” said the sources.
They said that after Gen Sharif’s assurance of being ‘guarantor’, the PAT and PTI chairmen were likely to back down from their demand of the prime minister’s resignation as they both believed that a fair probe into the Model Town killings and alleged rigging in last year’s general elections would not be possible as long as Nawaz Sharif is prime minister.
Meanwhile, sources in the military establishment said that a proposal would be placed before the political leadership which is likely to suggest the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in wake of the Model Town incident, formation of a high-powered judicial commission to probe alleged rigging in last year’s elections and a parliamentary commission to formulate electoral reforms to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.
“The proposal will be given a final shape after consultations with all political leaders,” they added.
QADRI AND KHAN ACCEPT COAS AS MEDIATOR:
Following the meeting with the prime minister, Gen Sharif contacted Qadri and Khan later in the night and told them to delay their deadlines to the government for the next 24 hours as he would try and come up with a formula which would ensure a peaceful resolution to the issues raised by both parties.
Addressing their respective followers after the calls from the army chief, Qadri and Khan announced that Gen Sharif has been appointed by Prime Minister Sharif as a ‘mediator’ and ‘guarantor’ for the current crisis.
They said that they have given Prime Minister Sharif 24 hours upon Gen Sharif’s assurances. The two leaders then urged their supporters to stay in the federal capital for one more day and wait until the deadline ends so that they can plan a future course of action after these latest developments. Qadri and Khan then separately left for a meeting with Gen Sharif which continued until late in the night.
Earlier in the day, the Wall Street Journal had reported that Prime Minister Sharif was close to reaching an agreement with Gen Sharif regarding important policy matters and to end the ongoing protests against the government.
The report suggested that as per the proposed agreement, the armed forces would control strategic policy areas, such as relations with the United States, Afghanistan and India.
The announcement of Gen Sharif’s direct involvement in bringing the current political crisis to an end lends weight to widespread speculation that the military establishment had a hand to play in the events that unfolded in the capital over the last two weeks.
The WSJ report said that the military had earlier extracted a promise of freedom for former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf and that Sharif’s government had secretly agreed to let Musharraf go abroad after a symbolic indictment over treason, which took place in March. However, the government went back on the deal as a result of which trust had eroded between the military and Sharif, it added.
Government officials told WSJ that the military had seized on Sharif’s weakened status during the political crisis and were now seeking guarantees from the prime minister that he will follow through on the agreement.
It also said that for the rest of his term, Sharif will be a ceremonial prime minister.
“If Nawaz Sharif survives, for the rest of his term, he will be a ceremonial prime minister—the world will not take him seriously,” political and defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told the WSJ. “A soft coup has already taken place. The question is whether it will harden.”