While the political circles were abuzz with speculation about the fate of the embattled government amid frantic efforts by politicians to defuse an explosive political stalemate, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif struck a defiant note on Monday by categorically stating that he would neither resign nor go on leave.
“I will not allow anyone to set such a precedent in which a handful of protesters are allowed to hijack the mandate of millions of people,” an official release quoted the prime minister as saying during a meeting with parliamentary leaders of the opposition and allied parties at the Prime Minister House.
The meeting, which came against the backdrop of a deepening political crisis in the country, extended full support to the embattled prime minister and the opposition parties in the parliament decided to become a party in a petition against any extra-constitutional step in the Supreme Court.
Just ahead of the meeting, Premier Nawaz held crucial talks with army chief General Raheel Sharif. Speculations were rife that the meeting between Nawaz and Raheel would prove decisive.
Soon after the much-talked about meeting ended, some television channels started claiming that the army chief asked the prime minister to step down for a month to pave way for investigations into alleged rigging in last year’s elections. However, the military’s media wing, the ISPR, swung into action immediately and termed such reports baseless.
Meanwhile, insiders said the prime minister and army chief discussed in detail the possible way out of the current impasse. According to a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader, the prime minister had made it abundantly clear during the meeting with Gen Raheel that he was going nowhere. An official statement issued by the prime minister’s office also corroborated this and quoted Nawaz Sharif as saying, “Let me reassure the nation that I am not going to resign or go on leave.”
After this meeting, the prime minister went into a huddle with representatives of 12 political parties, including Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
According to a statement, the attendees strongly condemned the attacks on the Parliament House and PTV, terming them ‘assaults on democracy and the state’.
They said storming of state buildings had damaged Pakistan’s image across the world and recommended strict action against the elements who were behind such acts. They said that they would not allow anyone to derail the democratic process and emphasised that only democratic rule could guarantee unity among the federating units.
The meeting also took serious notice of what it called an ‘irresponsible and baseless’ campaign by certain media outlets against the armed forces and their leadership in view of the current political situation.
PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai said protest campaigns of Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri were not democratic but those were acts of treason. ANP Senator Haji Adeel told the prime minister, “Don’t even think of resigning, if you step down, we will leave you.”
The meeting of the parliamentary leaders with the prime minister also discussed a strategy for a joint session of the Parliament, which would begin today (Tuesday). The unprecedented sitting, which was convened to discuss the current political stalemate, would continue for a week.
Officials claimed the joint sitting was likely to pass a resolution condemning attacks on the state institutions, including the Parliament House, Prime Minister House and PTV by PAT and PTI activists. The session would also repose confidence in the democratic process and make it clear that the prime minister could not be ousted through violent means.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2014.