ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan announced that Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has been appointed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a 'mediator' and 'guarantor' for bringing the current crisis between the government and protesters to an end.
Speaking to their supporters late Thursday night, Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan said they have given the prime minister 24 hours upon General Sharif’s assurances.
Both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have been in contact with the Army Chief and he is likely to mediate and steer all parties out of this deadlock, military sources said.
Meetings between General Raheel Sharif, Imran and Tahirul Qadri were confirmed by Director General ISPR Asim Bajwa on Twitter. The DG ISPR also updated the start of the meetings, both of which ran for a very short period of time.
Both the PTI chairman and the PAT chief urged their supporters to stay in the federal capital for one more day and wait until the deadline ends in order to plan a future course of action after these latest developments.
Reactions on the political front
Speaking on a private TV channel, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain welcomed the mediation by Army Chief General Sharif, saying imminent damage to Pakistan had been averted.
Voicing his concern over the late night developments, PTI senior leader Javed Hashmi told a private TV channel that it was unfortunate that the army had to step in to resolve a political crisis.
The announcement of General Raheel Sharif's direct involvement in bringing the current political crisis to an end lends weight to widespread speculation that the military establishment had a hand to play in the events that unfolded in the capital over the last two weeks.
Multiple meetings between the COAS, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, and Nawaz himself had been held over the last few days, in which the prime minister and army chief agreed to immediately resolve the political cul-de-sac.
The political confrontation has revived concerns about the conventional issue in Pakistani politics: competition for power between the military and civilian leaders. Some officials have accused elements within the military of orchestrating the protests to weaken the civilian government.
The Wall Street Journal had reported that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was close to reaching an agreement with the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif regarding important policy matters to end the ongoing protests against the government. The report suggested that as per the proposed agreement, the armed forces would control strategic policy areas, such as relations with the United States, Afghanistan and India.
PTI, PAT, brothers in protest
Speaking to marchers on the day dubbed by him as ‘Inquilab day’, PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri termed supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and his party as first cousins. He also said that he and PTI Chairman Imran Khan were brothers.
He said that they would not believe in reports that a First Information Report (FIR) in the Model Town tragedy case has been registered as desired by his party until he or his party’s counsel gets a copy of it.
Later, when local TV channels obtained a copy of the FIR, he rejected it, claiming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name was not included in it. He also said that sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure, pertaining to terrorism have also not been incorporated in the FIR.
Thousands of protesters led by Dr Qadri and Imran Khan have camped outside the Parliament in Islamabad to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and to bring reforms in the country’s electoral system.
As well as wide-ranging calls for political reform, the PAT chief has also demanded police bring murder charges against PM Nawaz and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, over the killing of at least 11 of his followers in clashes with police in Lahore’s Model Town.
In his speech, Dr Qadri said today was the day of "good riddance" from all problems faced by the nation. “Today is the day to get freedom from economic and social exploitation,” he added.
“More than 100 million poor of this country are slaves of this corrupt and unjust system,” said the PAT chief.
Reading quotes of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah from the Constitution book, he said, “the cheque of Pakistan has bounced as we are bankrupt.”
“Our rulers have money when it comes to corruption, buying journalists and anchorpersons and living a lavish life style … but, there is no money to resolve issues concerning poor masses of the country,” he added.
The anti-government cleric said that he and his supporters were there in the federal capital to fight for the rights of people and to fulfill the promise of the Constitution.
“We are here for upholding human rights values and to cash the cheque of Quaid-i-Azam.”
We have been involved at least seven to eight times in talks with the government to show our seriousness in resolving the issue amicably, he said.
Qadri rejects Model Town FIR
The PAT chief rejected the FIR registered against 21 people in the Model Town tragedy, claiming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name was not included in it. He also said that sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure, pertaining to terrorism have also not been incorporated in the FIR.
“If we want Pakistan to be a great country making progress … If we want to be a great state, then we must be a true state, we must adopt the path of peace, democracy, tranquility, human rights and fundamental rights of every single poor person in the country,” he said.
“We must eliminate extremism and sectarianism from our society … transparency, accountability, rule of law for every rich and poor in this country, irrespective of creed or colour as envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam and that enjoyed by every democratic country in the world.”
“From all over Pakistan, we want peace and love, which will only be possible through revolution.”
Calling the 2013 general elections and current assemblies unconstitutional, the PAT said that through free and fair elections and the legal process, corrupt people must be weeded out.
“We want to stop the poor and the weak from being exploited. They must be given water and electricity,” said the Canada-based cleric, adding that, “We don’t want minorities to be minorities, they must be equal citizens in Pakistan.”
Editorial: Dangerous trends
The editorial extract below appeared in Dawn's print edition on August 27, 2014.
MUCH as Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their respective protesters gathered in the heart of Islamabad would like to pretend otherwise, it is not just the PML-N government that is in the metaphorical firing line but the democratic system itself that is on trial. And, with the street protest against the government entering its third week, the pressure on the system has grown.
Quite how much that pressure has grown in recent days was in evidence on Tuesday as the Prime Minister’s Office issued an extraordinary statement after a meeting between Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif. In the press release issued by the Prime Minister Office, there is not just an explicit mention that matters of high politics were discussed between the highest-ranking civilian and the most powerful military leader on matters concerning politics but that, rather extraordinarily, the two men are in agreement that the political impasse should be resolved expeditiously.
The benefit that Mr Sharif and the PML-N would have hoped to gain from such a statement is fairly obvious: the federal government is trying to show that the army leadership and the PML-N are still working together and in agreement on the way out of the crisis.
Essentially, the PML-N’s posturing is meant to signal to the protesters and their leaders that the military is on the government’s side, not the protesters’. In truth, however, the PML-N’s posturing only reveals its own uneasiness – and perhaps even uncertainty – about what may happen if push comes to shove. In truth, there are enough tensions on policy matters between the PML-N government and the military to leave a lingering question mark over whether the army leadership may prefer a different political dispensation in the country.
In truth, there are no guarantees in politics.