Pak cleric Rehman's anti-govt protest enters 7th day

Pummi Singh

Islamabad, Nov 7 (PTI) Efforts to break the deadlock between the Opposition and the Imran Khan government remained inconclusive on Thursday as the massive protest led by firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman against Prime Minister Imran Khan entered its seventh day.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a member of the government’s negotiating team, held talks with Fazlur at his residence in Islamabad on Thursday to find a way to end the sit-in, aimed at toppling Prime Minister Khan's government, the Dawn reported.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Elahi said he will give 'good news' to the nation very soon regarding negotiations between the government and the opposition.

'We are hopeful [and] things seem to be going towards betterment,' he was quoted as saying by the daily.

Elahi met Fazlur, who has been leading the 'Azadi March' demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Khan, on Wednesday also for the third time and then called on the prime minister.

Elahi told the media that negotiations were progressing, calling for patience as “there are many processes underway at the same time”.

Fazlur on Wednesday warned that chaos will ensue if their demands were not met.

The right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) leader is leading the massive protest, which entered the seventh day on Thursday. Dubbed as 'Azadi March', the protestors demand Prime Minister Khan's resignation, accusing him of 'rigging' the 2018 general elections.

The opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People Party (PPP), have also thrown their weight behind the massive anti-government rally in Islamabad.

The protest in the capital is the first concerted opposition challenge that Khan has faced since he won the general election last year.

A meeting of the opposition's Rehbar Committee was also held on Thursday under the chairmanship of Akram Khan Durrani.

Members of the Committee during the meeting decided that the pressure on the government will be increased through the Azadi March.

They did not reveal what steps they plan on taking to put added pressure on the government, but said several recommendations are under consideration.

Durrani said the measures will be taken in the next few days and will be announced at an 'appropriate time'.

In its list of demands, the Opposition's Rehbar Committee sought the Khan's resignation and fresh elections in the country without the supervision of the armed forces.

The government, on the other hand, has demanded that the committee end the sit-in.

The Pakistan Army on Wednesday said that it is 'too busy' in matters of national security to get involved in any political issue, apparently referring to the protest.

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan Army spokesman, made the comments in an interview to Hum News Channel when asked if the Army chief will mediate in the ongoing demonstration by the cleric-cum-politician Rehman.

Ghafoor told the channel that army had nothing to do with the politics of sit-ins.

“We are too busy in matters of national security and defence to become involved in things like these and respond to these allegations,” he said.

When asked if army chief would try to resolve the ongoing dharna against the government, he said, 'the dharna is a political activity which the army as an institution has nothing to do with.” He rejected the impression that army was against the government when Khan staged a similar sit-in in 2014 and said that the military had supported the government. PTI PMS AKJ PMSPMS