LAHORE - A week ahead of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik‘s plan to hold sit-ins in some 100 cities of the country to mount pressure for legal action against all those responsible for more than a dozen killings a couple of years ago in what is known as Model Town tragedy, the government sent an emissary to Dr Tahirul Qadri on Saturday with the request that he should call off the protests and hold talks for “reconciliation”.

However, the PAT chief told The Nation in an interview that he turned down the request and insisted on “Qisas” (life for life) from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, ministers, bureaucrats and police officials named in the FIR of the case. He said talks could be held after his precondition was met.

He did not identify the man who had brought the protest cancellation request.

Dr Qadri said efforts for reconciliation had been made by the Sharifs even when he was out of the country. In case the rulers refuted the claim, he said he would name the countries and individuals involved in the initiative.

“From the patch-up efforts being made by them I infer that the rulers are ‘breathing their last’,” said a relaxed PAT chief, sipping coffee.

The PAT chief said he did not expect justice under the existing system when all powers were with those nominated in the FIR. It was for this reason, he said, that he was calling upon Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif to get him justice. “Now it is for him to decide how he would get us justice.”

Gen Raheel is due to retire on November 29. There are conflicting reports about extension in his term. The COAS has already said he would not accept extension, and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said recently that there is no proposal on the table to extend the general’s tenure.

“Gen Raheel’s term has not expired as yet; he has still some time left,” said Dr Qadri, clearly implying that he had pinned all hopes for justice on the army chief.

“His actions should speak; I am positive that he will (get us justice).”

He alleged that speeches made by various parliamentarians against the army and intelligence agencies had the backing of the premier. The army chief’s dissatisfaction over the pace of implementation of the National Action Plan clearly showed that the government had failed to honour its obligations on this front.

In response to a question, Dr Qadri said he had never given a deadline for the ouster of the present rulers. At the same time, he said he did not think the rulers would stay for long.

“The Sharifs and the country cannot go together. The nation would have to choose between the two. Anybody who has a different view on the subject is either a hypocrite or a fool.”

He did not agree with the argument that the defeat of the PAT candidates in the local elections proved that the nation had rejected the party’s politics of sit-ins. He said under the existing electoral system even Quaid-i-Azam and Allam Iqbal could not win against the PML-N candidates. The successful candidates, he said, knew the art of buying votes and it would be wrong to presume that they were popular among the masses.

According to Dr Qadri, the PAT had massive public following but lacked the “winning horses” available to the PML-N.

Responding to a question, the PAT chief warned that the country would not survive if the 2018 elections were held under the existing system. Such polls would reduce Pakistan’s status to other smaller regional countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

He said before the next elections the PAT would call for stern accountability and reformation of the electoral system.

Asked how long could these pre-election steps could take to complete, he said: “I can’t offer any comment.”

But he said if the elections were held without these two steps, “anti-state elements would come to power, endangering the very existence of the country”.

He refuted the impression that he would go back to Canada in the near future, leaving all plans halfway.

He said he would personally supervise all programmes worked out by the party and would not leave the country unless its agenda was taken to its logical conclusion.

Responding to a question as to which party was the PAT’s dependable ally at present, Dr Qadri said although all parties had their own agendas, all opposition parties were getting closer. At present, the situation was much different from that of 2014’s. Two years ago, he recalled, the PPP was all out to save the PML-N government while the MQM was also supporting the setup. But now the PPP’s stance on various issues was almost similar to the PAT’s. The MQM, he said, was no more supporting the government because of the situation it was facing at present.

The situation was far more serious than it was in 2014 and the rulers would not be able to stay in power.

Questioned who would make them to pack up, Qadri said: “I can’t answer this question at this stage. But an answer would be available after some time. My intuition and experience tell me that they are on their way out.”

He said former chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would not have had to think of filing a reference against the prime minister if he had listened to his (PAT chief’s) point of view when he had appeared in his court. He is saying today what I wanted to say in his court, Qadri said.

About the state of relations between the PAT and the PTI, he said it was same as in 2014. “Our ties have neither deteriorated nor improved.”