Pakistan protesters suspend talks with Govt

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Pakistan protest
Islamabad, Sep 14: Signs of a possible solution to end the political crisis engulfing Pakistan looked bleak today as anti-government protest leaders suspended talks with the Nawaz Sharif government following a crackdown on demonstrators with opposition leader Imran Khan asserting that there was no room for negotiations any more.

Pakistani police arrested several dozens of anti-government protestors and a court ordered that 100 opposition activists be sent to jail for holding illegal protests and other violations, triggering tense confrontation between demonstrators and police in the centre of the capital.

Addressing his supporters tonight on the completion of one month of protest, the fiery Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief announced to continue protests in front of Parliament till Sharif stepped down.

"There is no room for negotiations any more...We will not leave till the premier resigns," Khan said. He questioned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif if it is democratic to arrest young workers. "Officials putting young people behind bars should be ashamed of themselves...It is our democratic right to protest peacefully," he said.

"Sharif's real face has been unveiled, he is a dictator and his rule is worse than General Pervez Musharraf's rule," Khan said. "We cannot rely on the police or judiciary anymore," the PTI chief said as police yesterday arrested several dozens of protestors from the capital accusing them for violating section 144 which prohibit a gathering of five or more people in Islamabad.

He said that his dream of "Naya Pakistan" would soon come true and promised to introduce transparent government system in the country after ousting the present government.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief and populist cleric Tahir-ul Qadri, who has been leading parallel demonstrations, also said that he has suspended talks with the PML-N government following a crackdown here on demonstrators demanding ouster of Sharif.

"We have suspended the talks as the government has begun arresting my workers in Islamabad and around the country," Qadri said, deepening the month-long political impasse in the country.

"The government was unwilling to hear out the legitimate grievances of people who had been camped outside the halls of power for a month now," Qadri was quoted as saying by Dawn. Khan also dismissed the impression that he was supported by the military, saying "I don't need the Pakistan Army, as I already have an army of the people of Pakistan".

Khan's PTI wants Sharif's ouster over alleged rigging in last year's poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country.

Both leaders have been agitating since mid-August 14. At least three people have been killed and over 550 injured in violence during the protests.

The government earlier this week had said it had reached an agreement with Khan's party on most of their demands, except that of Sharif's ouster which it said is non-negotiable.

The protests have raised concern about stability in the country of 180 million people, at a time when the government is battling a Taliban insurgency.

Meanwhile, hundreds of supporters of Khan and Qadri today stopped several prison vehicles carrying their arrested workers to jail after a hearing in an Islamabad court.

Police had yesterday arrested several dozens of their supporters from the capital accusing them for violating section 144 which prohibits a gathering of five or more people in Islamabad.

About 100 of them were brought to a court in the capital and the judge sent all of them on 14-day judicial remand to Adiala Jail in neighbouring Rawalpindi.

But activists of Khan and Qadri already present in the court stopped the police vehicles carrying the prisoners.

The protesters deflated tyres of one van carrying more than 20 prisoners while several other vans steered out of the mob as police pushed them away to make way for the vehicles.

Islamabad police chief Tahir Alam rushed to the districts courts after the standoff and urged protesters to disperse. But the mob refused to move away from the stranded vehicles which was surrounded by police.

It is feared that the standoff may erupt into violence by angry protesters. More than 14 rounds of talks have been held between the protesters and the government to find a way to break the political deadlock.

Both Khan and Qadri have been camping side by side in front of parliament to force Premier Sharif to resign, but he has firmly refused to step down.

PTI

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