Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan gestures during a protest march against the country's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government in Islamabad. (AFP Photo)
Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan on Thursday called off talks with the government even as the national assembly unanimously rejected demands for PM Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and parliament’s dissolution.
“The government’s intentions are suspect and hence it is useless to talk to them,” the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief told his supporters.
Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri‘s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have drawn tens of thousands of supporters for the past two days as they protested outside the Pakistan parliament. But as the cricketer-turned-politician spoke on Thursday, barely a few thousand supporters were seen at the protest site. Khan has insisted the 2013 general election, won in a landslide by Sharif’s party, was rigged, despite observers judging it free and credible.
On Thursday, the Islamabad police chief was also replaced amid opposition allegations that he had faced the axe for not opening fire on protesters.
My resignation not solution: Sharif
Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday rejected PTI and PAT’s demand for him to resign, saying that it would lead the country towards another crisis. Talking to a group of journalists specially invited for a talk to the PM, Sharif said that he would not be resigning as this was not the solution to the problem.
Sharif seemed more confident on Thursday after parliament unanimously passed a resolution earlier in the day condemning demands by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) calling for the Sharif’s resignation and dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies.
“I have the support of 11 out of 12 political parties in parliament,” he said, adding: “so whatever happens will be through extra-constitutional means.” When asked by the statement by the US which cautioned against extra-constitutional means being used in Pakistan, Sharif said that he had received overwhelming support from within and outside the country.
Earlier, PTI chief Imran Khan announced that has party was pulling out of talks with the government. Khan also accused the government of planning a crackdown against the PTI and PAT activists to evict them from the ground in front of parliament. His statement caused panic amongst workers as well as in the public with many fearing a start of violence. However, within hours, information minister Pervez Rasheed clarified that no such action was being planned by the government.
“If we wanted to crack down on the protestors we would have done this a long time back,” he said. The information minister added that there were a number of rumours making the rounds which was unfortunate. He said that Tahir Ul Qadri had accused the government of mixing chemicals in water supplied to PAT supporters. In a related development, former president Asif Zardari arrived back in Pakistan from Dubai. It is expected former president may play in the current political deadlock.
(With Agency inputs)