ISLAMABAD - Only a day after the start of talks between the government and the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the latter Thursday announced to suspend the dialogue saying the government was placing shipping containers in the way of its workers and had started a crackdown against them.
On the 7th day of the sit-in, PTI chief Imran Khan said that the next couple of days were crucial as the destiny of the nation would be decided.
Khan, while addressing his supporters, lashed out at the US for issuing a statement in support of the Nawaz government and asked the US State Department to withdraw it. “Refrain from interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs,” he asked the US.
“The talks with the government are over. How can these talks proceed when we first want resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?” Khan said. “I want to tell you, Nawaz Sharif, that I will not leave this place until you step down... As long as I am alive I will not leave this place and stay here even for a year.” He charged his supporters by saying that the “finger of empire will be raised on Saturday night”.
On Wednesday night, the local administration of Islamabad had again started sealing off the Red Zone by placing more shipping containers, some of which were placed at the Constitution Avenue in front of Pakistan Television (PTV) building. Similarly, containers were also placed on the entrances of the capital causing inconvenience to the residents of the twin cities.
Imran urged his supporters to remove the containers from the Red Zone, saying he will stay in the Red Zone as long as he is alive. “It is our democratic right to protest... we are not breaking any laws. I request the Supreme Court to have these containers removed so that life can return to normal,” said Khan, addressing his supporters camped outside the parliament.
A visibly charged Khan called on his supporters to expand the civil disobedience movement into all the provinces. He asked his supporters from all provinces to converge in Islamabad as he vowed to fight “until the last ball”. “Nawaz should resign because the man who orchestrated the biggest electoral robbery in this country cannot deliver justice... Pakistanis, today is your test... listen to your conscience and not to the coward man who is sitting in the prime minister house,” he said.
Khan alleged that Islamabad IG was removed because he refused to give orders of baton-charging protesters. The angry Khan also threatened the interior secretary and newly appointed Islamabad IG, warning that they would not be spared if any of the supporters of the PTI was harmed. “In my passion, I may punch you,” Imran said. “Today we will decide if Nawaz Sharif can hide behind police and the US or not,” he added. “We will not spare you Nawaz, we will retrieve all the wealth you have looted,” the PTI leader roared to thousands of protesters.
Criticising the US State Department’s statement that it supports Nawaz Sharif as an elected prime minister, Khan asked US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, “I find you a reasonable person, please convey my message to the State Department, it has no right to interfere in the internal politics of Pakistan... Please don’t take sides and don’t back Nawaz Sharif.”
The PTI chief said, “If you want Pakistan a friendly country, please remember, Imran Khan will not become a stooge like Nawaz Sharif, we don’t need dictation from the US.”
He questioned the US ambassador, “If a representative of Congress would say that 60 to 70 thousand votes in each constituency were unverifiable, will you accept this election? If we are children of a lesser god... do we need no objection certificate from the US to bring democracy here?” He said that he knew better Western democracy than Nawaz does, and called him a US stooge.
Imran Khan promised to his supporters he would bring back looted money “amounting Rs200 billion dollars”, and alleged that Nawaz Sharif had taken Rs1,000 billion as ‘commission’ during his present one-year stint in power.
He again alleged Leader of the Opposition in NA Syed Khurshid Shah for siding with the government and also accused head of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKAMP) Mahmood Khan Achakzai and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman for taking benefits from the present government. He said that PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira was a fair politician and PTI was ready to talk with him.
Earlier in the day, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Secretary General Jehangir Tareen in a hurriedly-called press conference told reporters that the PTI was suspending talks with the government as the movement of their workers into the Red Zone was being restricted by placing containers and a crackdown had been launched against them. Qureshi said Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar had been informed about the suspension of talks.
As a result of this decision, the PTI team also did not reach the venue of talks at a local hotel at 2pm where they had to come to negotiate with the government. Qureshi said the PTI had decided to suspend negotiations until the government would stop crackdown against party workers and remove barricades. He made it clear that the PTI was not negotiating with the government on any one’s dictation.
Khan insists the May 2013 general elections, won in a landslide by Sharif’s PML-N, were rigged, despite independent international observers judging it as free and credible. The former cricket star has demanded Sharif resign and call new elections. On Thursday, he repeated his insistence the PM must quit before talks.