South Asia

Imran vows to storm Sharif’s house; Qadri calls for encircling parliament

Anti-government cleric Tahirul Qadri, centre, waves to his supporters during a protest in Islamabad, early Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Anjum Naveed

Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan on Wednesday threatened to storm Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s residence with thousands of his supporters while cleric Tahirul Qadri asked supporters to encircle the parliament, even as the Army warned that the sanctity of key buildings in the heart of the capital be respected.

Under pressure from the call by protesters, Mr. Sharif on Wednesday decided to meet Khan in an effort to end the anti-government protests in Islamabad seeking his ouster.

“It has been decided PM (Sharif) will meet Imran Khan for the sake of country,” Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, a close aide of Prime Minister Sharif, tweeted.

Mr. Rafique did not give the time for meeting.

However, Mr. Khan maintained his aggressive stance, tweeting,“Tonite we will celebrate Azadi at D Chowk (inside the Red Zone where the Parliament House, Prime Minister House, President House, the Supreme Court besides embassies of various countries are located).”

“I want all Pakistanis 2 get here breaking all barriers. Warning police 2 release r ppl or v will punish them 4 unlawfully detaining r ppl,” the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief tweeted.

His remarks came even as PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn News that the party had agreed to negotiate with the government.

“We discussed amongst ourselves that if it comes to talks what our position will be... The aim is to come out of this deadlock. We wish that the govt had seriously considered our demands,” Mr. Qureshi said.

“Our strategy is clear, we want to strengthen democracy and not derail it as opposed to the impression that is being given,” he said.

PTI’s media advisor Faisal Vawda said the party’s six demands to the government included the resignations of Mr. Sharif and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, electoral reforms, disbanding and reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan, recounts on certain constituencies, action against those involved in rigging and re-elections.

As the drama in the capital unfolded, the session of Pakistan’s lower house of parliament, attended by Mr. Sharif, was held.

Meanwhile, Mr. Qadri, chief of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), ordered his workers and supporters to surround the parliament after all the legislators have entered the building so that none could leave before Mr. Shairf resigns.

The military has said the buildings in the Red Zone are symbols of state and being protected by Army, so the sanctity of these national symbols must be respected.

The military has called for calm after protestors breached the Red Zone.

“Situation requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa tweeted.

While addressing a charged crowd outside the Parliament building, Mr. Qadri said that he had allowed legislators to enter the building so that “all the preys gather at one spot.” He also ordered the supporters not to allow any legislator to leave the premises once entered.

Mr. Qadri said, “I have never rejected the path of talks.”

He said no one had come to him for talks and he has not said no to anyone.

Addressing media representatives, Mr. Qadri said we regard the Parliament as a sacred institution.

“However, I do not agree with those who indulge in state terrorism in the name of democracy,” he said.

The PAT chief rejected the charge levelled against him that he and his party were engaged in a movement to derail democracy in Pakistan.

Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri have both alleged rigging in the polls in 2013 and called for a reelection.

In the elections, Sharif’s PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Mr. Khan’s PTI got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature.

“If Nawaz Sharif does not resign then we will enter into the PM House,” Mr. Khan said while addressing thousands of anti-government protesters who entered the heavily fortified Red Zone and set up camp in front of the Parliament House late Tuesday.

Police baton-charged Mr. Qadri’s supporters as they neared the parliament. Clashes took place between them and the police. After the initial minor skirmishes, police slowly retreated as part of policy to avoid violence.

“PM just told me he has ordered the police not to use any kind of force against the protesters as women & children are in the front rows,” Mr. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif tweeted late Tuesday night.

Pakistan Army has taken charge of the Interior Ministry’s control room, Dawn News reported.

The Army, which has so far been passive in the confrontation between the government and protesters, has a history of capturing power from democratically elected governments.

In its 67-year history, Pakistan has witnessed three coups, including one against Mr. Sharif in 1999 by the then Army Chief General Parvez Musharraf.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 3:52:40 PM |

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