Pak Political Crisis Heads Towards Resolution

Pakistan's political crisis that raised fears of instability and military intervention in the coup-prone country seemed to be headed towards resolution with efforts to seal a negotiated settlement between the government and protesters gaining momentum today.

In an indication of easing of tensions between the Nawaz Sharif-led government and protesters, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-I- Insaf (PTI) and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) are ready to vacate the high-security Constitution Avenue area.

Later, the workers of PAT and PTI vacated the lawn of the Parliament House and moved to D-Chowk where most of PTI supporters are camped in front of the Parliament.

"The government is ready to accept all other demands of PTI and PAT other than the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif," Nisar said.

Prime Minister Sharif today held a meeting with leaders of political parties at his National Assembly chamber and discussed the current situation. After the joint parliamentary session, Sharif was briefed by the government committee.

The Interior Minister said the government had prepared its response to the written demands of PTI and will hand it over to them. The government's response to the verbal demands of PAT had also been prepared, he added.

Talks between the two warring sides -- government and protesters -- were held late last night.

Two separate meetings took place overnight with the first one being held between the government committee and the PTI and the second between PAT, government and opposition parties' 'Jirga', a committee of opposition politicians led by Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq.

Though the talks were inconclusive yet leaders from both sides said their were some positive outcomes from the talks.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan Peoples Party leader and a member of the opposition 'Jirga', said the deadlock between protesting parties and the government is nearing its end.

"In three days, we will see more positive results. Both sides should compromise —- give and take," he told reporters in Karachi.

Meanwhile, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif today met the Prime Minister's brother and Punjab province Chief Minister Shahbaz at Army House in Rawalpindi. The two discussed the political situation.

After the meeting between PAT, government and opposition parties, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said, "During the meeting we have agreed to continue talks and resolve matter through dialogue. We have also decided not to comment on any development until we reach a decision, as it might affect the dialogue process." 

An emergency joint session of the Parliament convened to support the Premier and discuss the crisis continued for a third day today with leaders making speeches attacking the protesting parties.

Slamming the speeches in the Parliament, Qadri said his supporters are "peaceful" and not "terrorists".

"Parliament needs to think about why these protesters are here. Parliament should give me an answer as to who the murderers of those killed during the Model Town incident are," the PAT chief said.

In another development related to the crisis, National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq approved PTI president Javed Hashmi's resignation from the National Assembly.

Hashmi who submitted his resignation along with other PTI lawmakers had announced on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday that he was resigning. Hashmi, the elected PTI president, was dismissed by Khan after he made a number of allegations against the cricketer-turned-politician.

Meanwhile, the PAT today requested the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition relating to extra-constitutional steps and sit-ins in the capital, saying the court should not intervene in political matters as it violated the Constitution.

In another development related to the ongoing talks, opposition jirga head Haq today called on Sharif and briefed him about the dialogue process with PTI and PAT.

Addressing his supporters last night, Khan said, "Let me tell you what you have achieved so far. People who were not ready to talk, are now ready to not only listen to our demands but also to set up an independent judicial commission."

The only unaccepted demand remains the Prime Minister's resignation, he said.

"If we had not come on to the streets, then the next election would have been far more fraudulent," the PTI chief said.

The protesters returned to the negotiating table yesterday after the political crisis took a violent turn over the weekend with three people killed and over 550 injured.

Khan wants the ruling PML-N government's ouster over alleged rigging in last year's polls which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country. Both the leaders are agitating since August 14.

Both the protesting groups are seeking re-elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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