Frantic efforts were made to batten down the hatches as a political maelstrom continued to gather pace on Thursday with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif holding another round of meetings with leaders of political parties that supported the government in its overtures for dialogue with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Delegations of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and National Party (NP) held separate meetings with the premier.
According to sources, the political leaders assured the PM that they would not support any undemocratic forces. They also advised the government to use the democratic route to deal with the crisis and also called on Imran Khan to review his demands and come to the negotiating table.
Imran Khan wants PM Nawaz to hand in his resignation and hold a midterm election under a new election commission.
The PPP’s Senator Raza Rabbani and the ANP delegation expressed their concern over invocation of Article 245 and summoning of military to the federal capital.
The PM appreciated the suggestions of the delegations and said the government wanted to resolve the matter through democratic means.
The MQM delegation – led by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan – offered to act as a bridge between the government and the PTI in order to defuse tension, while assuring full support with regard to electoral reforms.
The MQM also suggested calling an all parties conference (APC) to discuss and generate consensus of the PTI’s Azadi March and Dr Tahirul Qadri’s call for revolution.
“We have asked the PM to find a middle ground and will also ask the PTI to go for a political solution; although holding rally is their fundamental right,” the MQM’s leader Dr Farooq Sattar said after the meeting with the premier.
Sattar added, there would be a political solution even if the PTI holds its march.
He said the government was ready to engage in talks, which was part of the political process and the option of talks should be exhausted before (the PTI) marches or protests. “We might not become guarantors but are ready to play the role of facilitators,” he added.
Responding to a question, Sattar said that his party had asked the government to respond to the demands of the PTI. “The country cannot afford agitation at this juncture as the situation might be exploited by some evil forces,” he added.
Sattar said the MQM was struggling for supremacy of the constitution and wanted participatory democracy to take root in the country. “These are testing times and we will continue the consultation process and we have asked the government to continue its efforts as well,” he added.
Addressing the media outside the PM house, the Awami National Party Senator Haji Adeel said his party supports democracy and urged the PTI chief to start a political dialogue with the government rather than resorting to sit-ins.
Referring to reports that the PTI has drafted demands to be presented to the government, Haji Adeel said that the government should talk to opposition parties and discuss their demands to find a solution. “The government seems interested in resolving issues through talks,” he said.
However, Haji Adeel said the Article 245 should be revoked as holding protest rallies was the right of political parties. He said the political parties should also guarantee that the protests will be peaceful.
ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour went a step further and said that the PTI chief should have consulted opposition parties before taking any decision or making any demand.
“Qadri’s demands are unconstitutional,” said Haji Adeel in reference to Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s revolution march. Dr Qadri claims that the incumbent government will not be in power beyond the end of August. Talking to the media after his meeting, the National Party’s leader Mir Hasil Bizenjo asked the PTI chief to review his demands and hold talks with the government.
Meanwhile Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also contacted Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders later in the evening. Government ministers responded to the proposals submitted to PM Nawaz a day earlier by JI chief Sirajul Haq.
According to sources, the PM has discussed Imran Khan’s demands with his party members. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has voiced hope that some good may emerge from the chaos. According to Express News, this is the first time the government has shown any flexibility in connection with Imran’s demands.
Plans to seal twin cities
While the government has said that it is ready to talk to the PTI about all its demands except the prime minister’s resignation and midterm elections, it has called around 5,000 additional police personnel from Punjab and Azad Kashmir to support 12,000 Islamabad police officials on August 14. The Islamabad police have brought in around 400 containers to barricade different city routes ahead of the PTI’s “Azadi march”. Similarly, the Rawalpindi police will also place some 450 containers on different routes.
Ball is in federal govt’s court: JI chief
JI Ameer Sirajul Haq has said the ball is in the federal government’s court since the PTI has offered a four-point agenda, which needs to be seriously considered.
“Otherwise, incidents could happen on August 14 that would not be in favour of the current political set-up,” he told a news conference in Peshawar on Thursday. Haq said the armed forces must not intervene but acknowledged that the crisis was deepening with each passing day. “Whenever such kinds of situations emerge, some forces take advantage of them,” he said.
He said he had talked to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and supported his demand for bringing reforms into the electoral system since every political party wanted a free and fair election.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2014.