Pakistan protesters agree to talks with government -UPDATED

Amid back-door mediation efforts, Pakistani anti-government groups have agreed to negotiate with the government to end week-long protests that have crippled the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan protesters agree to talks with government -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Opposition leader Imran Khan opened negotiations Wednesday with the Pakistani government, a lawmaker from his party said, in an effort to end protests against the prime minister and overcome a political impasse.

The announcement came the day after Pakistan's powerful military said the two sides should engage in dialogue and warned that key government institutions were under its protection.

Supporters of popular politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf party have been staging a sit-in outside parliament house since Tuesday night, after a long march from northeastern city Lahore to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. They are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pave the way for new elections.

In a speech to thousands of supporters, Khan said he would not stop protesting until Sharif quit, but backed away from a previous pledge to storm the prime minister's house.

"I thought I would take you all to the prime minister's house today," he said. "(But) I thought his heart is already in bad shape. If I ask my followers to go in that direction (of his house) and he has heart attack - I cannot do that."

Lawmaker Asad Umar from Khan's party said that they had six demands. One was Sharif's departure, and the five others concerned governance and election reforms, he said.

"We want a democratic Pakistan," he said.

“After consultation within the party, we have decided that if it comes to talks aimed at breaking the deadlock, we are ready for that,” announced the party's Vice Chairman Qureshi. “Our position is clear. We want to strengthen the democracy instead of derailing it.”

The Pakistan Awami Tehrik party, which teamed up with Khan for the protest, said it would also be opening talks with the government. Their leader Tahir-ul-Qadri is calling for a more drastic revolution to overturn Pakistan's political system.

Many believe that earlier refusals to talk with the government, until Sharif resigned, may have been tempered by the powerful army's public call for restraint and a peaceful resolution.

Meanwhile, the army called on all sides to show restraint to to resolve the crisis through talks.

All the buildings located in the Red Zone are the property of the state, and the army is protecting them, it said in a statement.

Khan’s PTI is one of the opposition parties trying to force Sharif to stand-down over allegations of electoral fraud in last year’s general election.

On Monday, the party declared PTI lawmakers would stand down from the national assembly and two provincial assemblies, Sindh and Punjab. The party’s representatives will not resign in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province, where they enjoy a majority and form the government.

PAT leader Tahir ul Qadri, a controversial religious leader who is the other central figure calling for Sharif’s resignation, announced countrywide sit-ins from Tuesday to put more pressure on the government.

Last Mod: 20 Ağustos 2014, 23:13
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