Pakistan’s government and opposition groups made little headway in overnight talks aimed at dispersing protesters seeking the fall of the prime minister, as their negotiations entered a fourth day yesterday.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have led thousands of supporters demonstrating outside the legislature this week calling for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go.
A government delegation met Qadri’s team early yesterday to discuss the demands of the cleric’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) movement, but the PAT came away dissatisfied.
“We believe in [the] dialogue process, but it seems the government team did not come with a clear mandate,” Rahiq Abbasi, a member of Qadri’s team, told reporters after the talks.
“We don’t think they are serious in carrying forward the process,” he added.
Their talks were again dominated by the issue of the alleged murder of at least 10 PAT workers in clashes with police in Lahore in June, for which Qadri wants arrests made and a legal case launched.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) held their own talks with the government late on Friday, which proved equally fruitless.
Those talks came hours after the PTI, the third-largest party in the Pakistani National Assembly, submitted the resignations of their 34 lawmakers in the assembly to the parliament’s speaker.
The letters are to be opened and verified tomorrow, speaker Ayaz Sadiq told private Geo television, ultimately triggering by-elections unless they are withdrawn.
PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters the next round of talks would be held later on Saturday.
Khan insists that May last year’s general election, which swept Sharif to power in a landslide, was rigged and therefore the prime minister should step down, though observers rated the vote free and credible.
Ahsan Iqbal, a government minister and member of its negotiating team, claimed meetings with the two groups had made progress, without elaborating, and added: “We have agreed the talks will continue.”
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party insist he will not quit and accuse the protesters of undermining the country’s fragile democracy.
Qadri and Khan’s protest movements are not formally allied and have different goals, beyond toppling the government. However, their combined pressure — and numbers — have given extra heft to the rallies.
If one group were to reach a settlement with the government and withdraw, the other’s position would be significantly weakened.
The standoff has raised fears of possible military intervention in the country, which has seen three coups since its creation in 1947.
However, analysts say the army is more likely to use the crisis to assert influence behind the scenes than stage an outright power grab.
Neither movement has mobilized mass support beyond their core followers, and opposition parties have shunned Khan’s call to unseat the government and begin a campaign of civil disobedience.
Despite rumors that the military had some hand in the protests, Pakistani Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, a PML-N stalwart, insisted there was “no pressure on us from any state institution to resign.”
“It is the imagination of some lawless and outside elements camping out there,” he said.
However, if a full-blown coup d’etat looks unlikely — such a move could jeopardize billions of dollars in foreign assistance and trade deals — analysts say the crisis will leave Sharif weakened.
“The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the back door,” the International Crisis Group wrote.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about