ISLAMABAD: Talks between the government and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) could not resume on Monday, a day after the government appeared to be attempting to mollify the protesting party’s chief, Dr Tahirul Qadri. This prompted the firebrand cleric to issue ‘an ultimate’ 48-hour ultimatum to the government for meeting his demands.
“I give 48-hour ultimatum to the government. Dissolve assemblies, register FIR and hand yourself over to the law. I will not be responsible for what happens after that,” Dr Qadri told his party workers, who have been camping outside the Parliament House for several days to press for their demands for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to step down.
He called for making public the report of the joint investigation team that had investigated the Model Town shooting incident in which 14 PAT workers were killed.
Dr Qadri, who along with his party workers marched into the Islamabad ‘red zone’ last Wednesday after the expiry of his earlier ‘deadline’, said he was giving the ‘last ultimatum’ to the government.
He, however, did not disclose what he intended to do if his demands were not met after the expiry of the new deadline.
Disillusioned with the government’s response to his demands, Dr Qadri said: “There is no institution of the country that may listen to the grievances of the poor.”
Giving an emotional touch to his speech, Dr Qadri waved a shroud that he said he had bought for himself and claimed to have “taken last bath of life with an intention of martyrdom while fighting for the rights of the oppressed and downtrodden people”.
A member of the PAT’s Inqilab march negotiating team told Dawn that their talks with the government were “practically deadlocked”.
The visit by Federal Minister for Railways Saad Rafique to Dr Qadri’s container on Sunday afternoon had led to speculations that the government wanted to strike a deal with the PAT chief.
The negotiator said that contrary to the perception that the government was offering a settlement the PAT had not been offered anything. “Nothing has been offered that could meet our basic demand for justice for those killed in the Model Town incident,” he explained. On the reforms agenda proposed by the PAT, he said, the government had suggested setting up of a committee to discuss their details.
Dr Qadri’s allies, meanwhile, consulted themselves after impasse with the government worsened and reiterated support for the PAT demands.
A delegation of Muttahida Qaumi Movement met Dr Qadri. MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi later told the media that he feared deterioration in the situation if the government did not show flexibility.
Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who was contacted by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for interceding with PTI chief Imran Khan and Dr Qadri, said he had told the former president that both leaders had gone too far.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014