Saturday 22 October 2016

Pak Govt to Hold Talks With Imran, Qadri Through Committees

Sajjad Hussain/Islamabad

Pakistan government today announced that two separate committees, consisting of members from all major political parties, will hold talks with opposition leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahirul Qadri to convince them on ending their protests here.

The decision to hold talks with the protest leaders came hours after Khan launched a civil disobedience movement to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

"The two teams will consist of members from all major parties and will hold talks with the protesting leaders tomorrow," Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said in a late night press conference.

The minister said no one would be allowed to violate the security of the "Red Zone" where the Parliament, the President and the Prime Minister's residences and embassies are located.

Undeterred by inclement weather and low turnouts, supporters of Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) headed by Qadri continued their protests for a fourth day running.

While Khan declared a "civil disobedience movement" against the Nawaz Sharif-led government, Qadri gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the embattled Prime Minister to resign.

"There is only one way now, we will kick off a civil disobedience campaign," Khan said to raucous applause from thousands of his supporters, who have traveled from Lahore in his 'Azadi March' aimed at ousting Prime Minister Sharif.

In the polls last year, Sharif's PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's PTI got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature. Khan has claimed that his party should have won many more seats but for the vote-rigging by Sharif's PML-N.

Qadri and Khan launched separate protests on Thursday, leading marches from Lahore to the capital where they are camping at separate venues.

Sharif-led government has come under pressure for not trying to resolve the standoff through talks.

"The government has completely failed to find a political solution to the problem. It should talk with the protesters," said Aitizaz Ahsan, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party.

The political instability comes at a time when Pakistan is waging a war against militants -- particularly in the restive tribal regions along its border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Supreme Court had on Friday issued an order against any unconstitutional step to remove the civilian government as protests threatened to remove government which sparked fears of a possible military intervention in the coup-prone country.

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