Pakistan Army steps in; blame game begins over intervention

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Pakistan
Islamabad, Aug 29: Pakistan's powerful Army Chief has stepped in to mediate between the embattled government and the protesters, but the two sides were soon trading charges on who was responsible for the intervention.

"Neither had I asked army nor the armed forces sought a role in the present political crisis," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the National Assembly today. Sharif scotched media reports that it was he who "requested" the army to come to his rescue, saying it was Khan and Qadri who approached Army Chief Raheel Sharif to become a mediator.

Responding to Sharif's statement, an angry Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chairman Qadri shot back, "I say this categorically that the Prime Minister asked the army to intervene. I am saying, on the record, that we did not make any request asking the army to intervene." "I had not even spoken to the army chief before our meeting yesterday.

Imran Khan did not make any request asking the army to intervene either," Qadri said, adding that Sharif made the statement after he saw his government was losing strength.

"If I have said something false then I am willing to accept any punishment," Qadri said addressing his supporters. The fiery cleric claimed that Sharif was lying. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Khan has so far not reacted to Sharif's statement. Khan and Qadri, camping here for about two weeks, met with the Army Chief in Rawalpindi overnight. Khan wants the PML-N government's ouster over alleged rigging in last year's polls which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a "revolution" in the country.

According to well places sources, Interior Minister Nisar Chaudhry was also present during these meetings. "It was agreed that army negotiators will have backdoor interactions with both sides today and prepare ground for an agreement between the two sides," sources said. The government representatives will also meet the protest leaders and they will approve the agreement mediated by the army.

After meeting General Sharif, Khan told his weary protesters that army has become "neutral umpire" in the crisis. He still demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister. Qadri also addressed his listless crowd of followers after meeting General Sharif and said he had presented his revolutionary agenda to the Army Chief in the meeting.

PTI

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