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Nisar Says Mediation By Army Was ‘Only Option’

by AFP and Newsweek Pakistan
Aamir Qureshi—AFP

File Photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Interior minister claims ISPR statement on P.M. asking Army chief to ‘facilitate’ resolution to protests supports his stance.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Friday the intransigence of anti-government protesters had left no alternative but mediation by the Army to end a two-week political crisis that has shaken the nation.

Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif on Thursday held talks with populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan in the standoff between the government and protesters. The move has raised fears of increased military dominance over the civilian government in a country ruled for more than half its life by the Army.

Thousands of demonstrators led by Khan and Qadri are camped outside Parliament in Islamabad demanding the prime minister step down. More than a week of government efforts to negotiate an end to the standoff made little headway, with Khan adamant the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must resign. Qadri, meanwhile, is demanding the registration of a criminal case against Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and 19 others, over the deaths of at least 14 Pakistani Awami Tehreek activists in June during a clash with police in Lahore. He has also demanded the resignations of both Sharif brothers.

Late on Thursday, Qadri and Khan announced Gen. Sharif would mediate and later the Army chief met them both, according to a military spokesman.

On Friday, Nisar told Parliament the protesters’ unwillingness to trust anyone had left no alternative but Army mediation. “Again and again they said they only trust the Army and will only have talks through the Army,” he said. “When a group or two parties has no faith in the judiciary, the opposition, lawyers or civil society and has no confidence in anybody, what option remains for the government?”

A furious row blew up almost immediately over the chain of events leading up to the army stepping in. The interior minister and P.M. told Parliament the request for military help had come from the camps of Khan and Qadri. Sharif said he had not asked for the intervention, but was told by a military officer that Khan and Qadri had said they wanted to meet the Army chief. “I … told him that if they wanted to meet and if they have requested to meet, then the Army chief must meet them,” he said.

Qadri, who is usually based in Canada, hotly denied this and demanded Sharif resign. “This is a lie, a lie, a lie. This request has been made by the prime minister and the government and I reject his claim,” he told supporters.

Meanwhile, chief military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa said on his official Twitter account: “The Chief of Army Staff was asked by the government to play a facilitative role for resolution of the current impasse, in yesterday’s meeting at P.M. House.”

The interior minister late Friday said that the military statement endorsed the government’s stance in the crisis. “Role of facilitation by Army is within constitutional ambit and the statement endorses our stance,” he said. He claimed the government had asked for “facilitation” while the protesters had demanded the Army be part of the mediation process.

Khan, the head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which scored its best-ever result in last year’s elections, once again insisted he would not leave the protest until the prime minister quits. A fresh round of talks between Khan’s party and government broke down, while talks with Qadri were in progress.

Khan alleges the 2013 general elections that swept Sharif to power in a landslide was rigged, though international observers said the vote was largely free and fair. Qadri has demanded wholesale changes to Pakistan’s political system and called for an interim “unity government” while they are implemented.

The leaders have drawn thousands to the streets in Islamabad, though support has dwindled over the last week and their call has not mobilized a mass movement in the country of 180 million people. But the standoff has weakened Sharif, and led a number of observers to say the military would use the crisis to reclaim a hold over its traditional spheres of influence in Pakistani politics—defense and foreign policy.

The Army is widely viewed as hostile toward Sharif’s efforts to normalize ties with India—the perceived threat from Pakistan’s neighbor is a big part of the justification for the military’s large budget and prominent role.

Sharif is also thought to have angered the military by pursuing treason charges against former chief General Pervez Musharraf. There is speculation that the military will use the current crisis to get Sharif to let Musharraf—who deposed the P.M. in a coup in 1999—leave the country.

A military-negotiated end to the crisis would also lend credence to the view, held by many analysts, that the Army and its intelligence agencies have been providing material aid to the opposition groups Analyst Imtiaz Gul said that Sharif was likely to survive the crisis, but would need to make major concessions to the Army in exchange for its support.

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2 comments

Raazia syed August 30, 2014 - 1:05 pm

If army is the only solution then where the elected political government exists ? this is the main question which comes in to my mind , first of all the two parties who are demanding their so called rights in red zone are wasting time of their own workers as well , as many of us know that in capital people are concerned about their jobs , and with this so called ” dharna and Azadi n Iqalb March ” the lives of residents of islamabad has been disturbed , saintry workers are also working hard to facilitate the residents but in vain , our capital which was the symbol of cleanliness at least for other cities has now become dust heap , these protests are not only poison for our politics and democracy but also the dirty atmosphere is unbearable. our government is not concerned with democracy , how did they allow few thousand people to disturb the democracy ,? why our government did not take necessary steps to overcome this dramas , “political Dramas” ? and now at last as usual military has been involved by the government ? what should be the next , …. new marshal law, new emergency , new NRO , new constitutional amendment, new PM , new rules or new pakistan stated by Mr . captain ???

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Javaid Bashir August 30, 2014 - 2:59 pm

Ch Nisar narrated a cock and bull story and denied , that the P.M requested the Chief of Army staff to facilitate or mediate between the protesters and rhe government. The denied the press reports 24 hours later in the session of the Assembly.

The changed their version of the event due to mounting pressure of the opposition. Khurshid Shah (PPP) leader gave an emotional, fierce and charged speech in the Assembly. The stance of PPP is just idiotic and full of rhetoric that does not support the views of the different groups with in the Party.

All these Parliamentarians are beneficiaries of thid decadent ystem , hence they want to save it by all means whether right or wrong.. These crooks will say and do anything to save their skins.

They do not care about the public and its problems. The government has failed to deliver their election promises. The autocratic rulers are now afraid of accountability. The ISPR D.G ‘s tweet does not support government version at all. Ch. Nisar is lying again. The present government has lost all political, legal, constitutional, and moral authority to rule. We must get rid of this political dispensation.

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