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

Key Al-Shabab Commander Captured

Zakariye Ismail Hersi was captured in a raid Saturday morning in the town of El Wak near the border with Kenya More

Relations Between Pakistan, Afghanistan Key to Fighting Taliban

A Pakistani official tells VOA that anti-terrorism campaign has resulted in improved counter-terrorism cooperation with Afghanistan More

160,000 Displaced by Flooding in Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib Razak visits hard-hit Kelantan state, announces nearly $145M in additional relief for victims More

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.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid