ISLAMABAD (Pakistan): Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday reportedly told a team negotiating an end to the opposition’s Azadi March that he would accept all their demands—except for the one calling for his resignation.
According to local media, the cricketer-turned-politician met the team, led by Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, at Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad as efforts to resolve the dharna led by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, gathered pace.
Local broadcaster Geo News reported that the prime minister had told the negotiating team that he would agree to all the “valid” demands forwarded by the opposition so long as they were in accordance with the Constitution.
He also empowered the team to conduct negotiations freely in order to end the dharna in Islamabad. However, he said there would be no negotiation on his resignation.
The negotiating team will now take this response to the opposition’s negotiators, the Rehbar Committee, who will deliberate on the matter before issuing their response.
The government on Monday said the opposition had demanded four key things: the resignation of Imran Khan as Prime Minister of Pakistan; fresh elections; for the polls to be conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan, and without military oversight to avoid any allegations of rigging; and the implementation of the Constitution in letter and spirit.
It is presently unclear if Khan’s willingness to agree with the demands includes the call for new polls, which would force his removal from office, as he has made it clear he will not resign.
According to local media, P.M. Khan also thanked the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid for its help in trying to secure an end to the Azadi March during meetings with Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday night.
The Azadi March will continue until either Prime Minister Imran Khan resigns or Parliament is dissolved, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said on Monday.
Talking to reporters in Islamabad, the JUIF chief said the opposition could always resign en masse from the assemblies or table a no-confidence motion against the premier but said this was the extreme option.
“What is the use of fresh elections if an Army officer is present inside the polling station and a soldier is deputed outside?” he said, adding that the Election Act should be implemented in letter and spirit.
He reiterated his earlier stance that the Azadi March represented the entire united opposition and not just his political party.
To queries, Rehman said he had no personal enmity with Imran Khan and was merely conveying the voice of the masses in demanding his resignation.
Earlier, addressing the Azadi March, Rehman said that negotiations between the government and opposition would not be beholden to the ruling party.
It is the opposition, and not the government, he added, who would set the tone.
“You have no right to come up with demands [on us],” he said, referring to the government.
Rehman, once again, slammed Niazi as a ‘rejected’ PM, saying the PTI risked unrest every day it maintained its hold on power.
“He does not represent the Pakistani nation. We do not know whom he represents,” he said, in an apparent reference to Khan.
Referring to ongoing commentary from PTI and its supporters slamming the lack of women’s participation in the Azadi March, Rehman said it was mere propaganda. He said the JUIF’s manifesto guaranteed the protection of women and minorities. “Female journalists here have been treated with respect unlike those who were humiliated during the 2014 [PTI-led] dharna,” he added.
He also slammed the PTI’s claims that the Azadi March was harmful to Kashmir’s cause, pointing to Khan’s statement from earlier in the year in which the prime minister had suggested the Kashmir issue could be resolved if Narendra Modi was re-elected as Prime Minister of India.