ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday urged the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) to call off its ‘Azadi’ march scheduled for August 14 in Islamabad.
During the National Assembly session on Tuesday, Minister for Railway Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan all requested the PTI to engage in talks directly or through mediation of other political leaders to resolve its differences with the government. However, they clarified that the request should not be seen as a weakness on the government's part.
“I request the PTI to postpone the march and not to adopt the mind-set of Dr Tahirul Qadri,” said Khawja Saad Rafiq adding the only way to keep democracy going is through talks.
"It is strange that a party that is an ardent supporter of talks with the Taliban is not ready for talks with the government, despite our repeated requests," said Rafique.
Further, Khawaja Asif asked the PTI to settle matters in the National Assembly rather than resorting to sit-ins and protests.
Chauhdry Nisar took the request a step further and asked leading political figures, including leader of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Qaumi Watan Party Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao to play a role in resolving PTI’s differences with the government.
Interestingly, the interior minister also asked his archrival, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to play a conciliatory role. “It would be a great service to the country and the government would respond positively to such a move,” he said.
Before the National Aseembly meeting, Achakzai met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and urged him to convene a meeting of all political leaders including PTI chief Imran Khan for resolution of issues. He also suggested that the Senate, National Assembly and provincial assemblies pass a resolution saying that no ‘compromise’ will be made if the Constitution is violated.
Further, Achakzai said that it is PTI’s right to hold a political rally but their plan of not ending the sit-in is dangerous and Parliament should decide whether sensitive areas in Islamabad could be used for political rallies.
“We have to accept that the people voted some to power,” he said in response to PTI’s demand of re-elections.
Government defends invocation of Article 245
The interior minister told MPs that the government would never use the army for political battles, adding that Article 245 of the Constitution was implemented in Islamabad for the protection of citizens.
“I assure this house that the government would neither involve the army in political affairs nor will use it against any political rally or protest,” said Nisar.
Nisar added that Parliament was not asked for approval before implementing Article 245 in the past and therefore, it was wrong to criticise PML-N for not taking parliamentary approval.
Clarifying that Article 245 mentions that it is invoked to combat terrorism, he questioned how it can be used for political reasons.
“The army does not serve any political party, it is for the entire country,” the interior minister said, adding that there is no shame in asking the army for help.
“Developed countries such as England, Italy and Spain have also sought help from their armies in order to aid civil leadership,” Nisar remarked.
The interior minister said Islamabad had not been handed over to the army and they will carry out their operations under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“When a military operation is being conducted, emergency is usually declared throughout the country but the PML-N government did not do this,” Nisar stated.
PPP to protest more than PTI, PAT if Article 245 not revoked
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will protest more against the government than the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek if it fails to revoke its decision to implement Article 245 in the fderal capital.
Demanding an explanation for government’s decision to invoke Article 245, the opposition leader said calling the armed forces can be seen as a failure of the government.
“Is the army being called in to stop the protest rallies?” he questioned.
The PPP leader claimed that the imposition of the article was equivalent to trying to eliminate political forces.
In addition to PPP every political party in the opposition opposed government’s decision of invoking Article 245 and demanded for an immediate withdrawal of the decision.