'Do not mistake maturity for weakness'

Updated August 28, 2014

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Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif — Reuters File Photo
Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif — Reuters File Photo

ISLAMABAD: After months of stalling, the government on Thursday said it is ready to begin a process for the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) in the Model Town case that resulted in the death of 11 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters — a move that may mitigate growing friction between the government and Dr Tahirul Qadri over his ominous call for a 'revolution'.

As anti-government protesters thronged the road outside Parliament, on the floor of the National Assembly Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif said the government is ready to nominate the prime minister and other ministers in the FIR.

"A process for the FIR has started and the government will not appeal against court orders," Asif said during a debate in the NA.

However, he maintained that the government’s fresh move amidst the heated political climate and resulting deadlock should not be misconstrued as vulnerability.

"Our offer for FIR was considered our weakness but nothing against law and constitution would be accepted," Asif said, dubbing it a “mature” suggestion.

The government's fresh offer is one of radical Dr Qadri's demands to the government, along with the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as well as the dissolution of assemblies for the formation of what he terms a "people's parliament".

Later at a press conference outside the assembly building, Asif along with Railways Minister Saad Rafique pledged to fight for the supremacy of Parliament and constitution.

“Pakistan is for all – we are ready to the register case in the Model Town tragedy, we are willing to look into his demands,” Asif continued.

“Our patience must not be taken to be our weakness,” he said, adding, ““This is not about satisfying someone’s ego. The prime minister had said that the Pariament as well the system needed to be protected.”


No resignation for Nawaz


Addressing the stalemate in negotiations with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Rafique said the government had agreed to five out of the six demands of the PTI but Imran Khan remained adamant over Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.

The PML-N leader said all political forces, minus PTI, are on board on the issue that the prime minister cannot be sent home without it being proven that he committed a crime.

Rafique said the government and its representatives had a series of meetings with PTI and yesterday’s was the final meeting after which the PTI decided to call off the talks.

We are however still available for dialogue, he said, adding that Imran’s party should allow the state to function and ensure that its protesters disperse from the country’s nerve centre.

He asked as to why should Nawaz resign when he was the people’s representative.


Headway with Qadri


Addressing the protests by PAT, Rafique said the government tried to resolve the issue by forming a commission for reforms and even asked Tahirul Qadri to become the supervisor.

But the PAT chief has been adamant that the national and provincial assemblies be dissolved.

He said the government told him his demands were unconstitutional.

Rafique added that when the Model Town incident took place, the PML-N leadership was in Islamabad. “But we had agreed for a thorough investigation to satisfy Qadri and his supporters.”


Bizarre requests, crude language


The railways minister asked why leaders were calling on supporters to prepare to die.

“We asked Qadri along with Imran to cancel the protests and allow the women and children to return to their homes,” he said.

He said the government was baffled as to why Qadri was urging his supporters to brace for martyrdom.

After Rafique, Khawaja Asif addressed reporters saying protesters were trying to break into violence but the government will resist – come what may.

“The government will never let them achieve what they want – we will ensure peace,” he said.

“The language that Imran and Qadri are using clearly shows they only want chaos, bloodshed – but the government will protect lives,” Asif said.

On the other hand, Saad Rafique insisted that Qadri should pursue talks and should not use his supporters as shield.

“I would like to stress on this that we are politicians, we do not believe in violence. We have learned from our past mistakes,” Asif said.


The joke about the deputy PM slot


Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab during the assembly session refuted the claim of Imran Khan that the government had offered him the slot of deputy prime minister

"It was a joke by Senator Jaffer Iqbal and nothing was serious in it," Aftab said.


PM Nawaz chairs high level meeting


A high level meeting was held on Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to sources, the current situation created by a persisting political deadlock was the main topic of discussion in the meeting.

The minister who held meeting with the Pakistan Awami tehreek (PAT) leadership last night were a part of the top level meeting.

The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervez Rashid, Federal Minister Saad Rafique and Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt Gen Retd Abdul Qadir Baloch.

Chairing a meeting to discuss ways to end prevailing crisis with his senior ministers, the premier made it clear that no demand beyond the legal parameters of the constitution will be accepted.

The meeting contemplated over ways to devise a new strategy to end the political stalemate created by the failure of talks with the protesting parties in the federal capital.

Up till now five rounds of talk between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have taken place.

It was decided in the meeting that the neither the premier nor the Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif will step down and the federal and, provincial assemblies will also not be dissolved.

In the current scenario, the PAT has said that no talks will be conducted with the government and the PTI leadership is adamant that no negotiations will be accepted without resignation of the premier.

The PAT leadership had also demanded registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against 21 suspects including the prime minister in the Model Town incident.

Prime Minister Nawaz sharif during the meeting also said that he along with other ministers nominated in the FIR will extend full cooperation in investigations into model town incident.