One of the two anti-government protest leaders in Pakistan on Saturday said that he has suspended talks with the PML-N government following a crackdown here on demonstrators demanding ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“We have suspended the talks as the government has begun arresting my workers in Islamabad and around the country,”Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief and populist cleric Tahir-ul Qadri said, deepening the month-long political
impasse in the country.
“The government was unwilling to hear out the legitimate grievances of people who had been camped outside the halls of power for a month now,” Qadri was quoted as saying by Dawn.
Qadri and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan have alleged that PML-N government has launched a crackdown on their supporters and nearly 300 opposition activists were picked up from across the capital yesterday.
“It is because of these arrests that we have decided to suspend dialogue with the government because they are playing a double game,” said Ghulam Ali, an Awami Tehreek spokesman.
PTI General Secretary Jehangir Khan Tareen also told a television channel yesterday that under the prevailing circumstances, it wasn’t possible for the party to keep talking to the government.
According to Tareen, the party handed its final set of demands to the government.
Meanwhile, Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf, dismissed the impression that he was supported by the military, saying “I don’t need the Pakistan Army, as I already have an army of the people of Pakistan”.
Khan’s PTI wants Sharif’s ouster over alleged rigging in last year’s poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country.
Both leaders have been agitating since mid-August 14. At least three people have been killed and over 550 injured in violence during the protests.
The government this week said it has as reached an agreement with Khan’s party on most of their demands, except that of Sharif’s ouster which it said is non-negotiable.
The protests have raised concern about stability in the country of 180 million people, at a time when the government is battling a Taliban insurgency.
Meanwhile, hundreds of supporters of Khan and Qadri today stopped several prison vehicles carrying their arrested workers to jail after a hearing in an Islamabad court.
Police had yesterday arrested several dozens of their supporters from the capital accusing them for violating section 144 which prohibits a gathering of five or more people in Islamabad.
About 100 of them were brought to a court in the capital and the judge sent all of them on 14-day judicial remand to Adiala Jail in neighbouring Rawalpindi.
But activists of Khan and Qadri already present in the court stopped the police vehicles carrying the prisoners. The protesters deflated tyres of one van carrying more than 20 prisoners while several other vans steered out of the
mob as police pushed them away to make way for the vehicles.
Islamabad police chief Tahir Alam rushed to the districts courts after the standoff and urged protesters to disperse.
But the mob refused to move away from the stranded vehicles which was surrounded by police. It is feared that the standoff may erupt into violence by angry protesters.
Both Khan and Qadri in their overnight speeches blamed police for arresting about 300 workers in a crackdown and
halted ongoing talks with the government to end the month-long protests in the capital.
Khan asked PTI vice president Shah Mahmood Qureshi to halt talks, which it was reported were moving ahead smoothly.
More than 14 rounds of talks have been held between the protesters and the government to find a way to break the political deadlock.
Undeterred by the arrests and dwindling numbers of supporters, Khan has already announced to hold a big show of power this evening to mark the completion of a month of the protest campaign.
Both Khan and Qadri have been camping side by side in front of parliament to force Premier Sharif to resign, but he has firmly refused to step down.