Pakistani P.M. announces he will meet with rival pol

Aug 20, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT
Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif holds a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the White Room of Number 10 Downing Street on April 30, 2014 in London, England.
AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday decided to meet opposition leader Imran Khan in an effort to end the anti-government protests here seeking his ouster. The Times of India writes:

"It has been decided PM (Sharif) will meet Imran Khan for the sake of country," Pakistan minister for railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, a close aide of Prime Minister Sharif, tweeted.

Rafique did not give the time for meeting.

 

 

It is hoped that Sharif will offer Khan a full audit of ballots to address his concerns about rigging in last year's poll which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party lost. In the polls, Sharif's PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature.

Khan wants Sharif's ouster, while Canada-based cleric Tahir-ul Qadri wants to bring a revolution in Pakistan. Sharif's decision came after Khan threatened to storm the prime minister's house if he refuses to step down by today.

Thousands of protesters marched to the Pakistani parliament on Tuesday as part of a bid to force the prime minister to resign, using a crane and bolt cutters to force their way past barricades of shipping containers in the capital Islamabad. Reuters reports:

Riot police and paramilitaries had tried to seal off the diplomatic and government zone before the march began, and were told not to intervene as protesters, some of them women throwing rose petals, moved all obstacles in their way.

The protests were led by former international cricketer Imran Khan, head of the country's third-largest political party, and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who controls a network of Islamic schools and charities.

Hours before the protesters set off, the interior minister announced that soldiers would be deployed to stop them. That was intended to send a message to the coup-prone country that the protests do not have military backing. It also underscored how the opposition has forced the fledgling civilian government to rely on the country's powerful army, despite deep mistrust between the two institutions.

The protests have piled extra pressure on the 15-month-old government as it struggles to overcome high unemployment, daily power cuts and a Taliban insurgency. The showdown has also raised broader questions over the stability of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.

Khan and Qadri both want Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign. Khan accuses him of rigging last year's polls. Qadri accuses him of corruption. Police estimate the two protest leaders have about 55,000 supporters between them, but not all of them marched on parliament.