Pakistan’s army chief has offered to mediate a two-week political struggle between the country’s prime minister and the opposition. The crisis has paralyzed the government of premier Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistan’s fortnight of political crisis has seen masses of protesters camped outside the parliament building in Islamabad, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The demonstrations have been led by cricket hero-turned politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri.
Attempts to bring an end to the crisis through negotiations have so far failed, but a possible end is in sight. Qadri told a crowd of supporters late on Thursday night that the army had offered to mediate in the stand-off.
“The Pakistan army chief (General Raheel Sharif) has officially asked us if it will be acceptable to the Azadi (freedom) march if he becomes a mediator and guarantor,” Qadri told his audience outside parliament.
Qadri endorsed the proposal, saying the army would compile a package of opposition demands and “make sure they are implemented.”
Khan, who spoke shortly afterwards, confirmed the move.
“General Raheel has asked us to resolve the issue through talks,” Khan said.
“I want to tell you all that I will not disappoint you. The talks have already started,” he added.
The opposition groups accuse Sharif of huge electoral fraud in parliamenty elections last year, in which his Muslim League won the maximum number of votes. Sharif has refused to step down.
There has been speculation that the army, which is offering itself as arbitrator, is using the crisis to weaken the prime minister and reassert its dominance over the civilian government. Analysts and government and analysts have said that the army has been covertly aiding the two protest groups.