News / Asia

    Pakistan's Military Urges Dialogue in Political Standoff

    Ranger soldiers stand guard against anti-government protesters rallying near the parliament building in Islamabad, Aug. 20, 2014.
    Ranger soldiers stand guard against anti-government protesters rallying near the parliament building in Islamabad, Aug. 20, 2014.
    Ayaz Gul

    Anti-government protesters outside Pakistan's parliament are showing no signs of leaving until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns, a demand the government rejects as unconstitutional.  Meanwhile, the powerful military is warning all sides to resolve the political impasse through meaningful dialogue.

    Thousands of anti-government protesters have been agitating in the center of the Pakistani capital for nearly a week in their bid to force Sharif from office.

    Both the government and rally leaders are unwilling to back down, increasing fears of a violent confrontation between police and the crowd by the day.

    Opposition politician Imran Khan and a populist religious leader, Tahir-ul-Qadri, have separately organized the mass protests.  Though not officially allied, both are calling for the prime minister to step down.

    Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, cheer while listening to him speak in Islamabad August 20, 2014.Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, cheer while listening to him speak in Islamabad August 20, 2014.
    x
    Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, cheer while listening to him speak in Islamabad August 20, 2014.
    Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, cheer while listening to him speak in Islamabad August 20, 2014.


    Police did not intervene late Tuesday when protesters broke down barricades and forced their way into the high-security "Red Zone." The area houses the parliament and offices of the prime minister and president along with other key government buildings.

    Unaddressed demands

    Khan, who heads the third-largest political bloc in parliament, presented his list of demands in a speech to the rally Wednesday night.  But he said Sharif's departure remains his top demand before any purposeful talks with government representatives are held.

    Addressing the prime minister, the cricketer-turned politician said "Let me assure you that Imran Khan will not leave until you resign."  He again alleged that Sharif came to power through "rigged" elections and demanded major reforms in the electoral system before new elections.

    A government team contacted Khan's negotiators on Wednesday but analysts say hopes for a meaningful dialogue are not high.

    The parliament met on Wednesday to debate the political crisis. Sharif was present in the house where his supporters criticized both Khan and Qadri.  Even lawmakers from the main parliamentary opposition sided with the government to oppose the protesters.

    Opposition member Shazia Marri in her speech said protests that threaten and undermine supremacy of the parliament in the name of democratic freedom of speech and movement cannot be condoned.

    "You cannot have the license to abuse the constitution of Pakistan. You cannot be given the license to malign the parliament of Pakistan which comprises of elected representatives who are representing the people of Pakistan," said Marri.

    Cleric Qadri is angry over the killings of more than a dozen of his followers in a police crackdown on a demonstration in Lahore this past June. He wants top provincial officials responsible for ordering the use of force to be brought to justice.

    The religious leader reiterated his demands Wednesday while addressing his supporters in Islamabad. He complained that more than two months have passed but the government is not ready to address his concerns. 

    Qadri said "we are protesting here because the courts and police are not ready to give us justice." He added "not only the government has failed to detain those responsible for murdering his followers, it has ignored court orders to register a police case for initiating legal proceedings."

    Army calls for dialogue

    The anti-government demonstrations have shut down large parts of the capital for days, disrupting life and business activities. The government has deployed hundreds of troops and thousands of police and paramilitary forces to discourage violence.

    In an unexpected reaction to the political tensions, Pakistan's powerful military Tuesday night called for a "meaningful dialogue" to resolve the crisis. In a brief statement, it warned that the situation requires "patience, wisdom and sagacity from the all stakeholders to end the prevailing impasse."  

    Army Chief General Raheel Sharif reportedly held another round of talks with government officials on Wednesday to urge them to negotiate with protesters.

    Critics say the army's efforts appear to be aimed at distancing itself from the political turmoil and removing perceptions it is behind the anti-government campaign. The military has carried out three coups in Pakistan and is considered the most powerful player in domestic politics.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora