LAHORE - The government believes that “democratic forces” having representation in parliament will play the role of a bridge between the government and Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri to dissuade the Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf and the Pakistan Awami Awami Tehrik from going ahead with their plans to converge on Islamabad in an attempt to pull down the incumbent setup.

According to Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, the parties that are expected to mediate include the PPP, the ANP, the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party of Mehmud Khan Achakzai, the JUI (F), the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Qaumi Jamhoori Party of Aftab Sherpao. Although these parties had reservations about various issues, they would not like anyone disturb the political system, he said.

In an interview to The Nation here on Wednesday, the minister said the mediation would start during the next few days when the National Assembly would go into session. Some PML-N leaders, he said, were also in touch with the relevant people to convince them to adopt legal course for the acceptance of their demands. He hoped that the PTI and the PAT would not do anything that could disturb the democratic system at a time when the country had been put on path to progress and prosperity.

He was asked what strategy the government would adopt after Imran Khan and Dr Qadri have categorically ruled out talks with the rulers about their respective demands.

When asked what the government thought would happen on August 14, the minister said: “Nothing”.

He said a few thousand people would come out in buses and their leaders in luxury cars. Leaders would consume “imported water”, pizzas and burgers while the ordinary workers would have to be content with ordinary drinks. 

 “I don’t think it would be more than a storm in the teacup”.

The minister said both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s agendas were illogical, irrational. Imran Khan wanted fresh elections, conveniently forgetting that he had contested the 2002 polls, when Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were not in the field, and could get only a single National Assembly seat.

He said there was no justification for demanding fresh elections only a year after the 2013 polls, especially because important organizations had said the previous polls were free and fair and enjoyed approval of more than 80 per cent people.

On the other hand, the minister said, Dr Qadri did not recognize the existing system and was out to dismantle it.  The PAT chief, he said, wanted to set up his own government, and then set up such courts as could oust all his political opponents before fresh elections.

According to the minister, Imran and Qadri were strategic partners although, because of the clash of personalities and diversity of followers, they were raising different slogans. 

In response to a question, the minister said the government did not have the authority to show anyone the results of even a single constituency, let alone all seats.  This power rests with the Election Commission of Pakistan only.

In case the PTI chief wanted the election tribunals decide the pending electoral disputes at the earliest, Senator Pervaiz Rashid said, he should bring legislation in parliament. He assured him that the government would oppose any such enactment.

But if the PTI chief wanted the parliament wrapped up, who would pass the required legislation and how, the minister asked. “Will the PTI’s core committee take decisions?  Does the PTI want to establish dictatorship in the country?”

Senator Pervaiz Rashid said long march was not the right way for the change of government. If a long march was accepted as the lawful mechanism, what would be the situation if some party converged on Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Paktoonkhwa where the PTI is in power, he asked.

He said ballot paper was the constitutional way of changing the government.

The minister said if the PTI was planning the long march to rescue Gen Musharraf, then it should rename itself as Tehrik-i-Musharraf. He was confident that the cricketer-turned-politician would fail in his designs.

“Some political leaders say the situation would return to normal if the government dropped the case against Gen Musharraf”, the minister was asked.

In response, he said the case was pending with the court, not the government, and the law was taking its course. “The government cannot interfere in this case at all. If some people want to get Gen Musharraf some kind of relief, they should approach the court. (Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif cannot give any relief to Musharraf”.

About the possibility of the government arresting/ detaining Imran Khan and Dr Qadri to prevent them from leading the long march(es), Senator Pervaiz Rashid said it was premature to say anything on the subject at this stage. He said any decision would be taken at the right time keeping in mind the then situation.

The minister insisted that the deployment of troops in Islamabad had nothing to do with the long march of the PTI or the PAT. He said army had been called in to deal with terrorists who could strike anywhere in retaliation to the ongoing operation against them in North Waziristan.

When pointed out that the move appeared to be linked to the protest programme as terrorists could have retaliated when the operation had been launched, not when it was about to come to an end, the minister claimed that 325 troops had been deployed back on June 15. He said the issuance of the notification had been delayed because of procedural formalities and vetting by legal experts.