ISLAMABAD: With rumours of an impending crackdown on protesters on Islamabad's Constitutional Avenue swirling, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique assured country that no such move was on the card - nor was it ever an option
Addressing the National Assembly session on Wednesday, following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's address, Rafique took the house into confidence about negotiations with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
He said that, "a crackdown was never our intention, and will not be a part of our plan."
Referring to PTI chief Imran Khan's demand for the prime minister to step down, Saad Rafique said that, according to his knowledge, even senior PTI leaders have suggested to their party chief to back down form this demand.
“But now it is a matter of pride for a man who has said that 'I will make him resign,' so he is not budging from stance,” he added.
He said there had been four rounds of negotiations between the PTI and the government committee - and "uncountable" phone conversations. Today, he said, the negotiations would continue - but requested the PTI not to close the door on this process.
In terms of the rigging allegations brought forth by the PTI chief, the minster said, “We even said that if it is proven that anyone has rigged the elections, then not only will the PM resign, all of us will resign. We will have no moral ground to stay in Parliament,” Rafique said.
All other demands, six in number, have already been or will be accepted, he said, which include the formation of a technocrats committee along with a commission that looks into election rigging.
However, despite the acceptance of the demands, he stated, "Constitutional Avenue has not been cleared despite the Supreme Court’s decision."
Regarding negotiations with PAT, Rafique said: “If they have a reforms package, they should bring it and we will give them the legal platform of Parliament to execute it.”
Further on the topic of negotiations, Saad Rafique requested that they be given access to Qadri and Khan, adding, “We were never given access to Imran Khan; I know he is a big leader, but no one is bigger than Pakistan,” Rafique said.
He also cautioned about riling up the country through heated speeches: "Hanging, coffins and violence should not be talked about. This will spread fear and delirium,” Rafique said.