The ‘game’ is over
* Sit-in ends as govt, Qadri reach agreement on dissolution of assemblies, electoral reforms, composition of ECP and appointment of caretaker PM
By Farooq Awan
ISLAMABAD: The five-day long ‘million march’ melodrama came to an end on Thursday, in a win-win situation for both government and Dr Tahirul Qadri.
The hours-long successful negotiations between a 10-member committee comprising representatives from Pakistan People’s Party and its coalition partners and Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran chief in a bullet-proof container in the heart of federal capital not only gave a breathing space to a fragile government in its last days in the office, but also gave a face-saving to Dr Tahirul Qadri, who had been virtually pushed into a blind ally, thanks to an unprecedented unity among all the democracy-loving political forces in Pakistan. Dr Qadri told his followers to pack their bags as he read aloud the three-page ‘Islamabad Long March Declaration’ duly signed by him and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Elections: According to the declaration, the National Assembly will be dissolved at any time before March 16 (the due date), so that the elections may take place within 90 days. One month will be given for scrutiny of nomination papers for the purpose of pre-clearance of the candidates under articles 62 and 63 of the constitution so that the eligibility of the candidates is determined by the Election Commission of Pakistan. No candidate will be allowed to start the election campaign until pre-clearance on his eligibility is given by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Election Commission of Pakistan: The issue of composition of the Election Commission of Pakistan will be discussed at a meeting on Sunday, at 12 in the noon at the Minhajul Quran Secretariat in Lahore. Subsequent meetings, if any in this regard, will also be held at the secretariat. Law Minister Farooq H Naek will convene a meeting of lawyers comprising SM Zafar, Waseem Sajjad, Aitizaz Ahsan, Farough Naseem, Latif Afridi, Dr Khalid Ranjha and Hamayoun Ahsan to legally and constitutionally analyse the issue of reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan. The law minister will report the results of this legal consultation to the January 27 meeting.
Electoral Reforms: Both sides agreed to focus on the enforcement of electoral reforms prior to the elections through: a) Article 62, 63 and 218 (3) of the constitution; b) Section 77 to 82 of the Representation of Peoples’ Act 1976 and other provisions relating to holding of free, fair, just and honest elections guarded against all corrupt practices; c) The Supreme Court’s June 8, 2012 judgement will be implemented in toto and in true letter and spirit.
Cases registered: All cases registered against each other will be withdrawn immediately and there will be no acts of victimisation and vendetta against either party or the participants and the organiser of the march.
Caretaker prime minister: The treasury in complete consensus with Pakistan Awami Tehreek will propose names of two honest and impartial persons for appointment as caretaker prime minister.
However, there was no mention in the declaration of Dr Qadri’s earlier demand regarding consultation with armed forces of Pakistan and the judiciary on appointing a caretaker set-up prior to the elections. Addressing the rally after the agreement, Qadri lauded the participants for their struggle. “The peaceful march that started on Sunday and continued till today has become a great model for the world to see,” he said. “It is a day of victory for the participants as well as the whole nation,” he added.
All members of the negotiating team also hailed the success of dialogue and termed it a victory of democracy. The crowd, which braved cold weather and heavy rain, broke into cheers and danced on the road at the news of success of dialogue. Earlier, a delegation comprising Afrasiab Khattak, Farooq Naek, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Farooq Sattar, Babar Ghauri, Khurshid Shah, Amin Faheem and Mushahid Hussain entered the container at around 4pm. Hours before the meeting began, Qadri issued a ‘final’ warning to the government. “Now I give an ultimatum that the president and his team come for talks by 3 and it’s the last peaceful offer to them,” said Qadri. “Today is the last day of our sit-in. Tomorrow, we will act with a new strategy.”
He asked his supporters not to leave the protest site until a written agreement was hammered out. Qadri gave the government a 90-minute deadline to act on his demands by 3pm, but later said he had now given government time till 3.45 pm. He said government had contacted him and sought more time so that a delegation could meet him at the site of his protest. He also told his followers that he had set only one condition for talks: Interior Minister Rehman Malik should not be part of delegation.
In his address in the day, Qadri said the attitude of country’s rulers had proven that there was no space for peace in the country. He had although he had given the government three weeks for negotiations, the rulers had failed to budge. He had said government does not believe in a peaceful resolution of issues confronting.
He said that hundreds of thousands had been staging a protest for days without any government security, adding that the participants were only counting on Almighty Allah’s mercy. He said the country was not being governed under a democratic system and instead barbarity was the order of the day. He criticised Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for travelling to Balochistan four days after the bombings in Quetta. He questioned as to how were the ‘Uzbek terrorists’ entering Pakistan, adding that brutality was at its extreme in the country.