Deadlock continues as Sharif, opposition refuse to budge

Khawaja Saad Rafique, center, from the ruling PML-N, speaks to media after meeting with Tahirul Qadri amid ongoing anti-government protests in Islamabad on Sunday.

Khawaja Saad Rafique, center, from the ruling PML-N, speaks to media after meeting with Tahirul Qadri amid ongoing anti-government protests in Islamabad on Sunday.

ISLAMABAD: Political deadlock in Pakistan continued on Sunday as protesters refused to budge while Nawaz Sharif tried to rally support from allies against resignation demands.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahirul- Qadri have led thousands of support- ers demonstrating outside the legisla- ture this week calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go.

The standoff has raised fears of possible military intervention in the country, which has seen three coups since its creation in 1947.

In a bid to muster political capital against the protests, Sharif has turned to his long term rival Zardari, the husband of slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the political supremo of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Zardari flew in from Dubai on Friday evening and held talks with Sharif in Lahore on Saturday.

Zardari threw his weight behind the continuation of the present Parliament saying democracy “should not be derailed,” a rebuke to the protest movement aimed at unseating Pakistan’s premier.

“Political forces should solve their problems within themselves through talks,” Zardari told reporters after his meetings with Sharif and other politicians.

“I am for Pakistan not anybody else. I am for the Parliament,” he added. But Zardari called on Sharif to continue negotiating with the pro- testers. “I have requested the Prime Minister to keep patience and handle the situation politically,” he said.

“The solution is dialogue, dialogue and dialogue. Democracy means never shutting the door. Differences can be removed through dialogue.”

Khan insists the May 2013 general election, which swept Sharif to power in a landslide, was rigged and there- fore the prime minister should step down, though observers rated thevote free and credible. Qadri and Khan’s protest movements are not formally allied and have different goals, beyond top- pling the government. But their combined pressure — and num- bers — have given extra heft to the rallies.

 
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