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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora