ISLAMABAD - After having consultations with the leadership of major political parties in the Parliament, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday evening rang up former president and Pakistan People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and discussed with him the overall political situation in the wake of planned protests by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

Nawaz Sharif phoned Zardari soon after the ex-president contacted Imran Khan and supported the PTI’s stance on electoral reforms. Zardari reportedly also backed the PTI chief’s demand for thumbprint verification of votes in four constituencies.

Sources aware of the Nawaz-Zardari contact informed The Nation that PPP co-chairman advised Premier Sharif to look for a negotiated settlement of the issue and avoid use of force against PTI’s Azadi march on August 14.

Zardari said the collision between the government and PTI activists would imperil the incumbent political dispensation and could cause enormous damage to democracy for which all the political forces had paid a heavy price in the past, sources further informed.

He advised Premier Sharif to show extra flexibility to end the tiff with the PTI through negotiations, and also offered to play a role in this regard.

Sources further said that Zardari also took Sharif into confidence on his conversation with PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who, according to him, was adamant to continue with his protest programme and not ready to show any flexibility.

Earlier in the evening, the major political forces sitting on both sides of aisle in the Parliament had a meeting with the prime minister and pledged to stand by the incumbent political dispensation against any attempt to derail democracy, but at the same time advised the government to deal with upcoming Azadi march (of PTI) or ‘revolution march’ (of PAT) keeping itself within the ambit of the Constitution.

In the wake of soaring political temperature in the country, Prime Minister Sharif decided to take the leadership of major political parties in the Parliament into confidence on the ways and means to tackle the protests planned by PTI and PAT.

Sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting informed The Nation that Prime Minister Sharif said that in the prevailing circumstances when the armed forces of the country were busy in operation against militants and the government was facing a challenge of managing over one million people displaced due to the operation, the political forces should avoid holding such protests which would only add to the problems of the government and imperil the incumbent political dispensation.

The political leaders including Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai shared the same sentiments with Premier Sharif and advised him to persuade PTI leadership for negotiated settlement of the issue.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Sharif was assisted by federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Pervaiz Rasheed and Saad Rafique.

Sources aware of the minutes of the meeting informed that Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah expressed his concern over the invoking of Article 245 and handing over federal capital’s security to army, and demanded the government immediately withdraw the decision.

Explaining the government’s position, Premier Sharif said the decision of invoking Article 245 was made much earlier at the time of launching of Operation Zarb-i-Azb against militants and it had nothing to do with the Azadi march of PTI on August 14.

Premier Sharif said he along with his party leaders were trying their best to persuade Imran Khan to sit across the table and resolve the issues through dialogue and assured that they would not cross the constitutional limits while dealing with the protest march by Imran Khan or ‘revolution march’ by Tahirul Qadri.

Sources further said that some of the leaders who met Sharif said the government had overreacted to the PTI’s protest plan and the matter should have been treated like they had treated the earlier protest rallies of PTI.

Meanwhile, according to a press release issued by prime minister’s media office, the current political situation came under discussion in the meeting. All the leaders agreed to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution and preserve the supremacy of democracy and parliament.

The declaration maintained that government and opposition would play their role in strengthening the system and resolve their mutual issues with consensus.

Prime Minister Sharif has also invited the leadership of Muttahida Qaumi Movement for a meeting and the central leadership of MQM would be meeting Premier Sharif in the next couple of days to share views on the current political situation.

Sources aware of behind-the-scene developments informed The Nation that keeping in view the input from various political parties, Premier Sharif has stepped up efforts to persuade the PTI leadership for negotiated settlement of the issue. In this connection, some senior parliamentarians enjoying respect and confidence of PTI central leadership could be engaged for mediation between the two sides to save the system from derailment.

Sources said that former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari had also advised Premier Sharif to avoid clash as in that case the incumbent political dispensation would face irreparable loss.

Sources in the ruling PML-N said that in case the PTI leadership would show some flexibility, Premier Sharif could even go to the residence of Imran Khan for negotiations and would not make it a matter of ego and was ready to give assurances on electoral reforms remaining within the system for which a 33-member Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms was already constituted and would be meeting today (Tuesday) to formally start its functioning.