The protest against the Nawaz Sharif regime took a new turn on Thursday with cleric Tahirul Qadri opening a dialogue with government and Imran Khan sticking to his ‘no-talks’ position unless the Prime Minister resigns as the Supreme Court summoned both the leaders on Friday for hearing a petition against the siege of Parliament.
The apparent difference in the approach of the two leaders came after the powerful army counselled a peaceful resolution of the week-long crisis, even as Khan said he would abide by the verdict of the Supreme Court on the protest.
The cricketer-turned-politician and Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf Chief, who had threatened to storm Sharif’s residence at 8 pm on Thursday, instead addressed his supporter’s conscious of the court hearing on Friday which observers feel may provide him with a face-saver.
“We have decided to negotiate with you Nawaz Sharif, but listen carefully —- the negotiation will start with the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif. How can a probe under Nawaz Sharif be transparent?” Khan said.
Khan said his party has prepared a committee to negotiate with the government, but it will not move ahead unless the prime minister steps down.
“I will not leave this place until Nawaz Sharif resigns,” he said. “You resign, make an independent committee which investigates (rigging) and then we can proceed.”
Imran Khan presented his six-point demands formula for talks. The demands included Sharif’s resignation, re- elections, reforms of electoral laws, neutral caretaker government, new election commission and punishments to those responsible for rigging last year’s polls.
Cancelling his deadline which expired in the evening to storm the Prime Minister’s House, Khan said, “Sharif has a heart problem and I don’t want to aggravate that by marching on his residence.”
Analysts said Khan in his address showed signs of softening his stand.
This came after the Army Chief had asked all stakeholders to hold “meaningful” talks to end the crisis, a source close to the ruling PML-N said.
“It seems that Khan has got the message. The start of talks may be beginning of the end of the crisis,” a PML-N leader said.
In the first sign of thaw between the government and the protesters, Sharif today sent a four-member team to negotiate a deal with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Qadri.
Qadri declined to give any guarantee about the success of the dialogue but maintained that he had never opposed talks.
The PAT during its negotiations with the government committee stuck to one of its central demands that those responsible for the Model Town incident be brought to book.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif has decided to address the National Assembly on Friday, expectedly to take the nation and the lawmakers into confidence on the crisis.