Government in talks with Tahirul Qadri

ISLAMABAD: A government delegation held talks with Tahirul Qadri, chief of the Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ), to avert a political crisis and disperse a rally that has heaped pressure on the government, DawnNews reported on Thursday evening.

The delegation comprises of Afrasiab Khattak, Farooq Naek, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Shujaat, Babar Ghauri, Khurshid Shah, Amin Faheem, Farooq Sattar and Mushahid Hussain.

Earlier, Qadri had given the government a ‘last deadline’ of until 3 pm to meet his demands which he had later extended to 3:45 pm. At the time, he had also stated that talks could only be held with President Asif Ali Zardari. However, the government had constituted a committee to hold talks with the TMQ chief.

He had added that he was giving a last chance to the government to address his demands.

In his address earlier, Qadri had said that the attitude of the country’s rulers had proven that there was no space for peace in Pakistan.

Addressing his supporters during the sit-in in Islamabad, Qadri had stated that although he had given the government three weeks for talks, the rulers had failed to budge.

He had said the country’s current rulers did not believe in a peaceful resolution of issues confronting the nation.

The TMQ chief had also stated that hundreds of thousands had been staging a sit-in in the capital for days, adding that the participants were only counting on God’s mercy.

Qadri had moreover said that the country was not being governed under a democratic system and instead barbarity was the order of the day.

He had also criticised Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for travelling to Balochistan four days after the bombings in Quetta, saying the rulers did not have a democratic temperament.

The TMQ chief had moreover questioned as to how were the “terrorists” entering the country, adding that brutality was at its extreme in Pakistan.

Qadri had also claimed that members of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) were also participating in the sit-in.

Govt constitutes committee for talks with Qadri

Moreover, sources had earlier told DawnNews that the president had been informed of Qadri’s demand for holding talks with him.

Sources had at the time added that the federal government had constituted a committee of four to hold talks with the TMQ chief.

The committee included Afrasiab Khattak, Farooq Sattar, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Khurshid Shah.

The TMQ chief is leading tens of thousands of protesters outside parliament to demand that the government resign. It is the largest political rally in the capital for years.

The rally has threatened to destabilise the country as it inches towards what would be the first democratic transition of power between two civilian governments in the upcoming elections.

An estimated 25,000 people are believed to be taking part in the largest rally in Islamabad since the current government took office in 2008.

Earlier on Wednesday, the main opposition parties demanded an immediate timetable for elections, but refused to join Qadri.

The government has announced no date for polls but says parliament will disband in mid-March to make way for a caretaker government and elections within 60 days.

Qadri wants parliament dissolved now and a caretaker government set up in consultation with the military and judiciary to implement key reforms such as setting up a new election commission and banning corrupt candidates.

Qadri’s sudden — and apparently well-financed — emergence after years in Canada has been criticised as a ploy by sections of the establishment to delay the elections and sow political chaos.

Information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has ridiculed the TMQ chief, accusing him of staying in a “seven-star bunker” while women and children camp out in the chilly nights and issued a veiled threat alluding to his possible arrest.

While critics dismiss Qadri’s supporters as a rent-a-crowd, many of the sit-in participants articulate real concerns about Pakistan’s problems, digging in for the long-haul, with supplies of food, water and mattresses and blankets.

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