South Asia

Imran Khan backs out of talks with Nawaz Sharif government

Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan talks over a phone as a camera-equipped drone hovers outside a parliament in Islamabad on Thursday.

Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan talks over a phone as a camera-equipped drone hovers outside a parliament in Islamabad on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: B.K. Bangash

Decision follows appointment of a new police chief in Islamabad for an expected crackdown on anti-government protestors

Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan suspended talks with the government on Thursday after it appointed a new police chief in the capital ahead of a possible crackdown on thousands of anti-government protestors who have besieged parliament.

Mr. Khan, a famed cricketer-turned-politician, and fiery cleric Tahirul Qadri have led massive protests from Lahore to the gates of parliament in Islamabad to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accusing him of rigging the vote that brought him to power last year.

Mr. Khan told his supporters that the government had removed the Islamabad police chief for not using force against him, and warned that the new police chief, Khalid Khattak, would follow orders to disperse the protests, which have thus far been peaceful.

“I have suspended the talks with the government,” Mr. Khan said. He warned that his supporters would storm the Prime Minister’s office if authorities launched any crackdown. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Qadri was also pulling out of the talks.

The government denied it had any plans to confront the protestors.

“We want to carry forward the talks to solve this issue,” Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said.

Another Cabinet Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, said government negotiators held initial talks with Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party — the legislature’s third largest — before dawn on Thursday. “We again went to an agreed place today for more talks, but the team of Imran Khan did not turn up,” he said.

After a request from the country’s military the >government convened talks with Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri’s representatives early Thursday.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a senior leader of Mr. Khan’s party, told reporters that the opposition presented six demands, including Mr. Sharif’s resignation.

The other demands include electoral reforms, setting up a caretaker government, removing top election officials and accountability for anyone found to have rigged last year’s elections, which marked the first democratic transfer of power in Pakistan after a long history of coups and dictatorships.

It is unlikely Mr. Sharif would give ground on those demands, which the government considers illegal.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 4:30:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/imran-khan-backs-out-of-talks-with-nawaz-sharif-government/article6338880.ece

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