ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif informed lawmakers in the National Assembly on Friday that it was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri who requested a meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.
The prime minister said that he gave permission for the army chief to engage the two leaders and play the role of mediator. He said that all the political forces including the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan People’s Party had rendered matchless sacrifices for restoration and strengthening of the democracy.
He said that he himself worked with the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto for this great cause. He appreciated the statements of Syed Khursheed Shah and Mehmood Khan Achakzai and said these were the voices of their own heart. He said that the government's positions come and go, but he could not compromise on the principles.
Nawaz's revelation came after Interior Affairs Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali justified the military's involvement as the only option out of the deadlock. Speaking in the National Assembly, he lamented that the protesting parties were unwilling to accept any other solutions. “These two groups did not trust the judiciary; they did not trust the opposition parties in this assembly; they did not trust lawyers, tribunals – if they did not trust anyone what option did the government have," he questioned.
"Let me make clear that this step [to involve army] was taken on a request by the protesting parties. The government allowed this facilitation, it should not be interpreted beyond that,” he said. Nisar said that the army was on the government's side, the protesting parties were using the army. “They used the name of the army,” he said. “This is not the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or the Pakistan Awami Tehreek's army, this is Pakistan's army. And instead of being in North Waziristan it is standing here [in red zone]. And these parties [PAT and PTI] have brought them here,” he said.
The interior minister said that the actions of these elements were not only ‘unconstitutional but irresponsible.’ He said that this time was a critical moment in Pakistan and the parliament's history. Nisar reiterated that the government had the backing of civil society and all political parties - barring one. “On one side, we have the elected parliament, supremacy of the constitution and law. On the other, we have the media and a few groups,” he said.
“They want the system to wrap up. They have dug up mass graves outside the parliament and are wearing shrouds. They want their people to be killed,” Nisar said. He said that he did not believe the PAT was a real political party. “This is not a people's movement,” he said. The interior minister said that the protesting parties were using women and children as human shields.
He also reiterated that the principle demand of both the parties for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down remains off the negotiating table. The minister said the agenda of the protesting parties was not only undemocratic but against the state as well. Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah pledged the opposition’s continued support to the government, saying the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) must clarify details of the army chief’s meetings with Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri.