Describing the protests as a “mutiny against Pakistan”, the government on Tuesday turned to Parliament for support as demonstrators continued to put pressure on a defiant Nawaz Sharif to quit as prime minister.
“This Parliament should remove the misconception that this is a democratic process. This is not a protest, not a dharna or a political gathering. This is mutiny against Pakistan,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said at an emergency joint session of the Parliament convened to support the PM and discuss the current political crisis.
“They reached the gates of the Supreme Court, of Parliament... yesterday they entered another state building and chanted slogans of ‘Tahir-ul-Qadri Zindabad’,” he said, referring to the storming of the PTV Islamabad office.
Nisar said the protesters had pistols, cutters, hammers, catapults, slingshots and sticks with nails fixed to the end. “The men in this crowd are from a militant organisation,” he said of those who stormed the PTV building.
The Supreme Court, while hearing a set of petitions against sit-ins by the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek, on Tuesday issued notices to all parliamentary parties as well as to PAT to resolve the ongoing political impasse within the parameters of the Constitution.
The four-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk issued notices after petitioner Zulfiqar Naqvi pleaded that all parties be summoned so the deadlock can be resolved.
The developments came after late Monday night, the state-run PTV quoted Prime Minister Sharif as saying that neither he will resign, nor will he go on leave.
According to a joint statement issued after the opposition parties’ meeting at the Prime Minister’s House on Monday, the premier said he would not let people’s mandate be hijacked by intimidation.
Khan continued to apply pressure on Sharif to resign saying he will not leave the Constitution Avenue till the PM quits. “I approached all legal avenues to resolve the issue of poll-rigging but to no avail. The government kept employing delaying tactics but this is the real power that the government is now willing to accept all our demands except the prime minister’s resignation,” Khan said.
“But we will not go back until Nawaz Sharif resigns,” Khan said addressing his supporters.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army, in a statement categorically rejected the assertions that along with ISI, it was backing PTI and PAT in the current political standoff. “Army is an apolitical institution and has expressed its unequivocal support for democracy at numerous occasions. It is unfortunate that army is being dragged into such controversies,” it said.
In the last 48 hours, anti-government protests have morphed the high-security Red Zone from a concert ground to a bloody battlefield, with three people killed and over 550 injured.
A total of nine cases have been registered against leaders and activists of PTI and PAT since Monday, DawnNews reported.
The charges include sedition, murder attempt and terrorism. More than 200 activists have already been arrested in Islamabad since Sunday night, media reports said.
Khan and Qadri were on Monday booked under the anti-terrorist act for attempting to attack the Parliament. Meanwhile, PAT’s lawyer has refused to submit proposals over what role the Supreme Court should play in ending the current political impasse.
The response came a day after the apex court call on the two protesting parties — PTI and PAT — as to what proposals they had in their mind about the role the court should play in ending the political deadlock.
Chaudhry Nisar, while addressing the Parliament, slammed the protesters for storming government buildings. “They removed the loudspeakers from the PTV mosque. Is this the revolution they are bringing? They even stormed the canteen at PTV — they are not revolutionaries...they are intruders,” Nisar said.
“Those were not PML-N cameras that they broke,” he said, adding that eight PTV cameras were stolen, each of which cost Rs 700,000.
Railway Minister Saad Rafique said Khan and Qadri are pretending to be peaceful. Criticising the two protest leaders, he said the two wanted to impose the rule of jungle in the country.
“Should the government govern the country or deal with these parties which are bent upon derailing democracy,” Rafique said.
Fresh controversy erupted on Monday after Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif met Premier Sharif to discuss ways to resolve the deepening political crisis with media reports claiming that the embattled PM was advised to step down during the meeting.
After TV channels reported that Army Chief General Sharif has advised the PM to step down, both the government and military issued separate denials, dismissing the claims as “baseless”.
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. Both the leaders are agitating since August 14.