ISLAMABAD - There are no signs of letup in the standoff between PTI/PAT and government as none of two protesting parties seems ready to resume talks with the fear that the government may divide and weaken them politically. The protesting supporters of the PTI and PAT on Constitution Avenue believed their leaders Imran and Qadri would not call off the protest till removal of Sharifs from power come what may.
This has been the case ever since PTI left the negotiation table on Saturday on the verge of striking a deal with the government of Prime Minister Sharif and joined hands with Qadri. Since then both the parties are trying to take strategic places such as PM House, Parliament Building as well as the headquarters state owned TV channel PTV in bid to prolong their sit-in.
On the other hand, the government with utmost restraint has been trying to engage the protestors with bare minimum use of force largely through gas shelling that too led to massive injuries and loss of life for which it has been widely criticised. Consequently, the government’s freedom of action was further restricted till the time the protesters resorted to violent means while trying to capture key state assets giving government a breathing space to charge them with various criminal offences that might lead to arrest of Imran and Qadri and their colleagues.
Such a move, many believed, would create some space for the government to bring them to the negotiation table. Credible government sources confirmed Prime Minister Sharif was actively weighing this option in case the government fails to engage the leaders of protesting parties in meaningful talks. At the same time, the government is also jittery of violent and wide spread reaction of such direct action from PTI and PAT and their allied parties.
Sources in the ruling PML-N say that the PM would not step down and instead was ready to leave the charge of Law and Justice Ministry to ensure transparency of probe into the polls rigging allegations through a judicial commission in order to alley the PTI reservations. And the PM has already given his consent to step down to a number of other political leaders if rigging allegations were proved. But the situation changed after PTI left the negotiation table and joined hands with PAT making it more difficult to engage PTI.
On the other hand, the government also tried to tame Dr. Qadri’s demand for registration of FIR in the Model Town killing case against 21 people including Prime Minister Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, important members of federal cabinet and several civil servants. But so far this move did not work successfully to prevail on Qadri to call off the protest and resume talks on his other demands.
Parallel to this, some key PML-N leaders as well as ousted PTI President Javed Hashmi blamed military establishment for tacit support to protesting PTI and PAT and efforts to get rid of Sharifs and their cronies, a charge vehemently rejected by ISPR on Monday.
Since the start of the current political crisis, the Pakistan Army had maintained its apolitical role and earnestly supported the government efforts to defuse the crisis.
The PML-N still believes that former President Pervez Musharraf and his military commanders are responsible for pitching his former political allies including PTI and PAT and their allied parties against Sharifs allegedly in connivance with the military. They believed that former spymaster General Ahmed Shujjah Pasha hatched up the plan initially with Dr. Qadri and later persuaded Imran Khan to join the course by staging a peaceful sitin on Constitution Avenue till the time the government was forced to accept their demands.
On the other hand, the government of Prime Minister Sharif pre-empted by making counter plans largely banking on its parliamentary strength and garnered the support all the major political players including PPP in the parliament except PTI, to defend its constitutional legitimacy. These political parties have asked the Prime Minister not to pay heed to PTI and PAT’s undemocratic and unconstitutional demand of his resignation and instead advised the PML-N government to convene a joint sitting of the parliament to evolve consensus on the executive’s response to tackle the PTI and PAT protesters.
On the ground, PTI and PAT protestors seem contended after breaking into lawns of the parliament building where some of them have installed tents showing no signs of retreat.