Let’s sit and talk out solution: govt to opp

* Opposition terms imposition of Article 245 ‘mini martial law’ * Govt denies any political motive; says move aimed at countering terror threats rather than blocking any long march


ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday pleaded for settling the political issues in parliament after it came under sharp criticism in the National Assembly for invoking Article 245 for deployment of army troops in federal capital as the opposition parties took up the issue strongly in the House by calling it a mini martial law.
The frustration of the treasury in the face of opposition’s onslaught was obvious when three top ministers of the government – Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Railways Minister Khawja Saad Rafiq – took the floor to defend implementation of Article 245 in Islamabad to explain that no political motive was behind the move by emphasising that it was purely to counter the terrorism threats rather than blocking any long march or rally, an apparent reference to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s planned Azadi March on August 14.
“We request you to sit with us and find out an amicable solution of the crisis,” Saad Rafiq pleaded, who was aided by Khawaja Asif when he appealed for settling the issues on floor of the House. Nisar Ali Khan, who wound up the debate on Article 245 also assured the opposition their concerns against the government would be heard. He rejected the claims of dragging the army into politics through Article 245. “Don’t divide the nation on August 14 and let it remain Independence Day,” Nisar told the opposition parties whose lawmakers came down hard on the government while speaking on Article 245.
Nisar defended implementation of Article 245 in the capital city and contended that it was solely against terrorism and requested the opposition lawmakers not to distort facts when they speak about it. Interior Minister Nisar also showed surprise over blowing up the Article 245 issue and said it was not something new which should trigger so much criticism. “From 2007 to date, this article was invoked 24 times throughout the country and never dubbed as mini-martial law,” Nisar stated while responding to opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah’s observations about the Article 245.
Khawaja Asif also took the opportunity to explain that the government did not take extra-constitutional measures by imposing Article 245 and invited the opposition to debate it in parliament if it thinks so. Asif called for protecting democracy, saying he believes that it is still nascent. He said the government is ready for criticism and accountability, but the political issues should be settled on the floor of parliament. Khawaja Saad Rafiq declared that the government would go to the maximum extent to refrain the opposition from holding long march and rejected the notion that it wanted to pitch long march participants against army by invoking Article 245 in Islamabad.
Earlier, Khursheed Shah urged the prime minister to withdraw Article 245 and said that Nawaz Sharif must prove that he is a democratic prime minister. He, however, assured the government that in case of any threat to democracy “we will fight till last drop of our blood” and said that if the Article 245 was not withdrawn, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would protest strongly leaving all others behind. He said that Article 245 is like a mini martial in the country. Speaking on Article 245 PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi said that it poses severe threats to democracy and said that the onus would lay on the government in case of derailment of system because it is dragging army into politics through such measures. 

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