Pak Parliament backs Sharif; Govt slams protests
ISLAMABAD: Amid fears of violence and army intervention in the coup-prone nation, a cornered Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday turned to Parliament for support with his government slamming the protests as a “mutiny against Pakistan”.
Leaders from across the political spectrum backed Sharif at an emergency joint session of the Parliament convened to support the Prime Minister and discuss the current impasse.
Most of the leaders expressed their resolute support for Sharif in the wake of anti-government protests headed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
“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 told Parliament.
“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 were armed and had support of up to 1,500 trained militants of an extremist organisation which he did not name.
Dubbing the protesters as “intruders”, he urged the Parliament to declare their actions as a mutiny against the state and asked lawmakers to “guide” the government in dealing with them.
The Supreme Court, while hearing a set of petitions against sit-ins of Khan and Qadri, 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 Nasir-ul Mulk issued notices after petitioner Zulfiqar Naqvi pleaded that all parties be summoned so the deadlock can be resolved.
The developments came after late last 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 yesterday, the Premier said he would not let people’s mandate be hijacked by intimidation.
Sharif, who enjoys a solid majority in the chamber and was present on Tuesday’s sitting, got much-needed support from different political parties during the debate in the Parliament with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Aitizaz Ahsan saying the Premier should not resign under pressure.
However, he criticised the government for failure to address the problems of the people.
Other lawmakers also pledged support to the government and said force should be used to evict the people camping on the lawns of the Parliament building.
Prime Minister Sharif did not speak on Tuesday and the discussion was to continue tomorrow with the Speaker adjourning the House.
At the end of debate, the joint sitting will adopt a resolution to support Sharif and urge him not to resign or go on leave as demanded by Khan and Qadri, sources told PTI.
Joint sittings of Upper House and Lower House are convened only on important occasions or to deal with emergencies. The idea of holding a joint sitting was floated by the opposition and endorsed by Sharif.
The session could continue for several days depending on the will of the parliamentarians.
Protesters have fought relentlessly with police and by late last night some of them reached closer to the Prime Minister’s House but they were stopped at the main gate of the Parliament building’s lawn.
Khan reiterated his call for Sharif’s resignation late last night, saying he will not leave the Constitution Avenue till the Prime Minister 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 has 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.
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 yesterday booked under the anti-terrorist act for attempting to attack the Parliament.
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.
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 14th August.