Pakistan’s powerful army chief has stepped in to mediate between the embattled government and the protesters seeking resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, bringing the military back into the centre stage and signaling a possible end to the high-political drama.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri, camping in Islamabad for more than two weeks, met with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi overnight after the PML-N government asked him to play his “role” in ending the political crisis.
Khan wants the PML-N government’s ouster over alleged rigging in last year’s poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country.
According to well placed sources, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan was also present during these meetings.
“It was agreed that army negotiators will have backdoor interactions with both sides on Friday and prepare ground for an agreement between the two sides,” sources said.
The government representatives will also meet the protest leaders and they will approve or sign the agreement mediated by the army.
After meeting Gen Sharif, Khan told his weary protesters that army has become “neutral umpire” in the crisis.
He still demanded resignation of the Prime Minister. “If he resigns we will celebrate it on Friday evening,” he said.
Qadri also addressed his listless crowd of followers and said he had presented his revolutionary agenda to the army chief in the meeting.
Sources said that the deal brokered by army will address Khan’s concerns about rigging and Qadri’s basic demand of inclusion of clauses of anti-terror laws in the case already registered against Prime Minister Sharif, his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and others in Lahore.
Sharif is expected to survive in the political battle but he will become weak and unable to challenge army’s grip on foreign and security policy of the country.
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.
Sharif himself was removed from office during a previous stint as prime minister in a military coup by the then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf in 1999.
When politician differed in 1977 over the outcome of polls, then army chief Gen Zia-ul Haq imposed martial law.
Meanwhile, leaders from across the political spectrum regretted the political tug of war that led to a crisis where the army got involved to settle dispute.
“After this, we will not be able to hold our heads high,” Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Javed Hashmi, who is known for his outspoken opposition to military’s involvement in politics, was continued…