News / Asia

    Pakistan's Army Steps in to Resolve Political Crisis

    A  supporter of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) ,reacts as she listens to her leader's speech in front of the Parliament house building during the Revolution March in Islamabad, Aug. 28, 2014.
    A supporter of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) ,reacts as she listens to her leader's speech in front of the Parliament house building during the Revolution March in Islamabad, Aug. 28, 2014.
    Reuters

    Pakistan's army stepped into a political struggle between the country's embattled prime minister and the opposition on Thursday, signaling a possible end to a crisis that has destabilized the coup-prone nation.

    Pakistan has been gripped by mass rallies for more than two weeks, with protesters led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahir ul-Qadri camped outside parliament demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign.

    Attempts to resolve the crisis through talks have failed, creating a deadlock and raising the specter of violence as thousands of increasingly impatient activists, some armed with sticks, massed in the heart of Islamabad despite intense heat.

    Addressing the roaring crowd late at night, Qadri said the army had offered to mediate in the stand-off, a proposal he immediately endorsed.

    “The army chief has asked us to give him 24 hours to solve the crisis,” he told thousands of flag-waving supporters. Khan, speaking shortly after him, echoed his remarks.

    “The army will compile and put together a package of our demands and make sure they are implemented,” Qadri added.

    The army's press wing tweeted that army chief General Raheel Sharif would meet both opposition leaders late on Thursday. No other official comment was immediately available.

    Some officials in Sharif's administration have accused the army itself of orchestrating the protests as a way to weaken the prime minister, and many believe that the fate of the anti-government movement ultimately lies in the military's hands.

    Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million, has been ruled by the military for half of its entire history and has repeatedly swung between democracy and military. Sharif himself was toppled in a coup in 1999 during his previous tenure.

    What next?

    This time few observers expect the army to try to grab power again, although the prime minister seems sure to emerge significantly weakened from the crisis, with the military likely to further sideline him on security and foreign policy issues.

    A military source told Reuters late on Thursday that the prime minister had asked General Sharif to “play his role” in resolving the conflict.

    “All stakeholders have been requested to negotiating table to resolve the issue ... but it's just the beginning,” the source said.

    At least 10,000 people have crowded Islamabad's so-called Red Zone, where parliament, the prime minister's residence and embassies are located since Aug. 15. With many sleeping rough, the site is now littered with rubbish and reeks of human waste.

    Tensions came to a head earlier on Thursday, with Qadri declaring it “Revolution Day” and security forces sealing off the protest site in case the crowd tried to storm nearby government buildings, which had been evacuated.

    Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, center, is surrounded by aides as he addresses supporters near the parliament building in Islamabad, Aug. 27, 2014.Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, center, is surrounded by aides as he addresses supporters near the parliament building in Islamabad, Aug. 27, 2014.
    x
    Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, center, is surrounded by aides as he addresses supporters near the parliament building in Islamabad, Aug. 27, 2014.
    Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, center, is surrounded by aides as he addresses supporters near the parliament building in Islamabad, Aug. 27, 2014.

    Both Qadri and Khan used fiery language throughout the day refusing to back down.

    The army's mediation could provide a face-saving solution to both of them in a country where the military is still respected widely and seen as an antidote to a civilian government many resent for corruption and red tape.

    When Qadri told the protesters that the army was getting involved, the crowded chanted and waved flags in approval.

    Sharif, who met the country's powerful army chief earlier in the day, flew to the city of Lahore - his political powerbase -  for a funeral but was expected back late Thursday night.

    The demonstrations come at a difficult time for Pakistan, already plagued by an Islamist insurgency, sectarian tension and recurrent power shortages. Many Pakistanis are deeply unhappy with the government's performance since it came to power after winning an election in May last year.  

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.