Despite protests, Pakistan government open for talks

A day after anti-government protestors tried to storm the prime minister’s house, the Pakistan government said its doors were still open for talks even as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan vowed to file FIR against the Sharif brothers.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Saturday night adventurism to enter the prime minister’s house along with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Tahir-ul-Qadri’s supporters left at least eight supporters reportedly killed and about 450 injured.

The government Sunday said its doors were open for talks despite Saturday night’s incident and it was trying to contact leadership of protesting parties.

Stating that Imran Khan and Qadri committed irreparable crime by trying to storm the symbol of state and democracy – the prime minister’s house, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the government “will never shut the doors of talks in the best national interest and wants to defuse the situation through peaceful means”, Radio Pakistan reported.

A high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was also held in the capital Sunday to discuss the current situation in the light of anti-government protestors’ presence and Saturday’s clashes and to decide the future course of action.

Meanwhile, after his supporters attempted to enter the prime minister’s house, Imran Khan Sunday faced disapproval from within his party over taking such an “unethical” step.

PTI President Javed Hashmi Sunday said he does not know “who convinced Imran Khan to move towards PM house”, Radio Pakistan reported. He said peaceful protest is the right of political parties but “no ethics allowed anyone to storm PM House”.

Hashmi said Imran Khan, the chairman of PTI, had given “a commitment to the party leaders to not move towards PM house” but “after receiving messages from unknown place, Imran deviated from his commitment”.

After Hashmi’s statement, PTI’s information department came in support of Imran Khan in the evening stating that moving towards Prime Minister House was “a collective decision”, Dawn reported.

Earlier in the day, Imran Khan vowed not to spare Nawaz Sharif, his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan after many protestors were killed and hundreds injured.

He told his supporters that FIRs would be registered against the Sharif brothers and the interior minister for murder as clashes continued in the Pakistani capital city between police and supporters of PTI party and Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party.

Police arrested over 500 party workers.

Imran Khan said he would continue to fight till his last breath, Geo News reported.

Qadri claimed his party’s seven workers were killed and many others were seriously injured when police fired steel and rubber bullets at the demonstrators.

Imran Khan said one of his workers was killed and scores of others were injured in the clashes.

However, Defence Minister Khawja Asif rejected the claims, saying no one was killed in the clashes.

Officials, however, confirmed that 240 injured people, including six children and 40 women, who were shifted to hospital. The injured included over 40 policemen and six journalists.

The PTI leadership announced a countrywide protest Sunday against the incident.

The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) demanded Nawaz Sharif’s immediate resignation after the clashes.

Following the clashes, party workers of the PTI and PAT started protests and blocked main roads in other major cities, including Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, and Karachi.

Imran Khan, whose PTI party has 34 seats in the lower house, alleges that Sharif rigged the 2013 general elections. He has been demanding a probe by the apex court and re-elections.

Qadri’s supporters have been pressing their 10-point agenda, including the prime minister’s resignation and the registration of a murder case against 21 people, including Nawaz Sharif and his brother, over the June 17 police firing in Lahore’s Model Town area.