Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI has suspended talks with the Nawaz Sharif government, intensifying a week-long impasse that has included a protest by about 30,000 people in the heart of capital city Islamabad.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a leader of Imran Khan’s party, confirmed that the opposition leader would not talk to the government “for the moment”. Mr. Khan had said he will hold talks only after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned.
For the first round of talks in Islamabad’s Mariott Hotel in the early hours of Thursday, Mr. Khan sent a representative while he continued to picket the Red Zone, which houses key buildings including Parliament, the prime minister’s house and numerous Western embassies.
Mr. Khan and Tahir-ul Qadri, a cleric who has joined his protest, the ‘Azadi march’, claim that last year’s general election – in which Mr. Sharif’s PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-N) won a landslide victory – was rigged. The election was rated as free and credible by international observers.
Mr. Sharif has refused to resign. This morning, before the PM addresses the National Assembly to brief lawmakers and the nation about the political crisis, the government will examine the PTI’s six-point demands.
Mr. Khan also wants the PM’s brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to resign; he wants interim government installed while his rigging charges are probed; he wants electoral reforms before fresh elections; re-elections for all assemblies; he wants responsibility fixed for the alleged rigging of last year’s national election and an audit of government expenses.
Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri have been summoned today by a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, which is investigating Mr. Khan’s allegation that the national elections held last year were rigged.