Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that he was ready to accept all “valid” demands of the Azadi March protesters, led by firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman, except their call for his resignation.
Imran Khan is to have made the remarks in a meeting with Defence Minister Pervez Khattak-led team tasked to negotiate with the opposition parties taking part in the massive march comprising thousands of protesters in Islamabad.
Second round of direct talks between the government negotiating team and opposition’s Rehbar Committee failed to break the ongoing deadlock between the two sides after sent a delegation to firebrand cleric-cum-politician Rehman’s residence to break the impasse in the wake of the Opposition’s bid to oust Khan.
The right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) leader is leading the massive protest, which entered the fifth day on Tuesday. Dubbed as ‘Azadi March’, the protestors demand 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 anti-government rally.
A delegation led by former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain met the cleric on Monday night, hours after the government’s negotiating team led by Defence Minister Khattak held talks with the Opposition’s Rehbar Committee headed by JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani and discussed their demands, the report said.
In its list of demands, the Rehbar Committee has sought the premier’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.
Rehman on Monday asked his supporters to continue their anti-government protest with “perseverance” and “courage”, as the 48-hour deadline set by him for Prime Minister Khan’s resignation expired.
He said the movement to oust the prime minister “will continue to move ahead and will never be on the back foot” Rehman on Friday gave Khan a two-day ultimatum to resign, saying the “Gorbachev of Pakistan” must step down without testing the patience of peaceful protestors.
The 66-year-old cleric said the protest would continue until Imran Khan steps down.
Meanwhile, amid the continuing protest, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has vowed to form the government at all costs. Addressing a PPP workers’ convention at Uch Sharif in Punjab province on Monday, Bilawal termed Khan as an “inefficient” prime minister and said his party “would form a national government at all costs”.