ISLAMABAD - Political crisis in Pakistan took a new turn Thursday after Army Chief General Raheel Sharif invited Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri to Army House Rawalpindi for finding some way out acceptable to all parties to bring an end to weeks of protest on the Constitution Avenue.

It transpired from the reports about separate meetings of General Sharif with PAT and PTI chiefs that the army chief would play role of a neutral empire in the expected deal between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the protesting parties.

It was further learnt that a judicial commission would be set up to probe into Imran Khan’s allegations relating to rigging of elections, and if these allegations are proved then an interim government would be installed to hold fresh elections in the country.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier today requested General Raheel Sharif to mediate to resolve the standoff between the government and the PTI and PAT on a number of their demands, particularly the resignation of the prime minister.

Later talking to media, Imran Khan said he made it clear to General Raheel Sharif that as long as Nawaz Sharif remains in office no transparent investigations could be done. He reiterated his demand for resignation of PM in the interest of justice, adding that government has doled out Rs250 million to media professionals through Intelligence Bureau.

Imran Khan said he would not mind about Nawaz Sharif being part of the parliament and heading parliamentary party of his PML-N in the National Assembly, but he will have to step down as prime minister. He said he was expecting some major development tomorrow (Friday), “our goal is now very near” and if “our demand of Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation is accepted then PTI would celebrate”.

Otherwise, he vowed to continue his sit-in not only on the Constitution Avenue but expand it to other cities to force PM Sharif to resign. He also asked the participants of the PTI sit-in to converge at the same place on Friday (today) as party would decide and announce its future course.

There was no press statement issued by the ISPR about meetings of General Raheel with Imran Khan and Dr Qadri. Earlier, both the leaders went to the Army House and held one on one meeting with the army chief.

On the other hand, participants of Inqilab protest rally were keenly waiting for their leader Dr Tahirul Qadri. They were reportedly unaware about his whereabouts and unable to establish contact with him after his meeting with General Sharif. One of the presumptions was that he might have gone to meet Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi for further consultations. But it could not be immediately confirmed till filing of this report – till late.

Meanwhile, political observers expressed their disappointment over the manner Prime Minister Sharif requested the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for his intervention to resolve the standoff with PTI and PAT protesters. They were of the view that Prime Minister Sharif has caused immense damage to democracy by seeking army chief’s intervention. There has been no reaction on this major development from the ruling PML-N.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requested COAS General Raheel Sharif to help defuse the mounting tension between the government and protesters. General Raheel called on prime minister at PM House to discuss with him the deadlock and its possible fallout.

A brief press release issued by PM media office said it was agreed in the meeting to take necessary measures for resumption of stalled process of negotiations for an expeditious resolution of the issue in the best national interest.

The sources in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and people close to Premier Sharif were tight-lipped over the development, as disclosed by PAT and PTI chiefs while addressing the sit-ins in front of Parliament House in the evening.

A number of PML-N leaders including some of the federal cabinet members were contacted but nobody confirmed the mediation by the army chief. A private television channel however quoted Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan as saying that Premier Sharif had asked Gen Raheel to help defuse the situation and play the role of mediator between the government and protesting parties.

PML-N sources informed The Nation that Premier Sharif briefed the army chief on the details of the negotiations with both the protesting parties and the point, which resulted in the deadlock in parleys. They further said that COAS wanted early resumption of talks to break the impasse, as he wanted to see the issue resolved through peaceful means, anticipating the disastrous fallout in case force is used.

The ruling party sources informed that prime minister repeated his party’s stance of not accepting any unconstitutional demand of the protesting parties and said that he would not give in to the unconstitutional demand of his resignation and packing up of the democratically elected Punjab government.

However, the government is ready to listen to their rational and constitutional demands, he said, adding that the government has also allowed registration of FIR against all those nominated by PAT leaders in Model Town tragedy while all the demands of PTI chief Imran Khan, except the one seeking his resignation, were accepted.

Sources in government further informed that COAS also discussed the security measures in Red Zone particularly the arrangements made by Armed Forces to guard diplomatic enclave and the key buildings located at the Constitution Avenue where these protesting parties are staging their sit-ins. Security of the main buildings on Constitution Avenue was already handed over to Armed Forces as the government had called in Army by invoking Article 245 and virtually they were in command of the security of red zone.