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    Standoff continues in Pakistan as talks fail

    August 24, 2014

    The political crisis in Pakistan escalated on Saturday night with the third round of talks between government negotiators and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) failing to break the logjam, a news report published by the Press Trust of India said today.


    The report filed from Lahore said: Giving a fresh ultimatum, the PTI demanded that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down for 30 days for an independent probe into the alleged rigging in last year’s polls but this was rejected outright.


    PTI’s chief negotiator Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters after the meeting that if proved innocent Mr. Sharif can return to power.


    Government representative Ahsan Iqbal said the demand for resignation of the Prime Minister was not acceptable.
    Thousands of supporters of PTI chief Khan and firebrand cleric Tahirul Qadri continued to camp outside the Parliament building here as their protests entered the 10th day on Saturday.


    Pakistani media said the government has suspended mobile phone services in the Red Zone in and around the National Assembly citing security reasons.


    Earlier, the former President Asif Ali Zardari met Mr. Sharif at the Premier’s residence in Lahore to discuss the political crisis and pledged to “protect democracy”.


    Briefing journalists after the meeting, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Mr. Zardari had assured his full support to Mr. Sharif in resolving the crisis within the limits of the constitution and law.


    To a question whether Mr. Zardari had asked Mr. Sharif to resign, Mr. Dar said, “There is no question of the PM’s resignation. Rather he extended his full support to the Premier.”


    Separately, Mr. Qadri is also holding talks with another government team. He also wants the Sharif government to go.


    A government delegation met Mr. Qadri’s team on Friday to discuss the demands of the cleric’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) movement, but the PAT remained dissatisfied.


    Their talks were dominated by the issue of the alleged murder of at least 10 PAT workers in clashes with police in Lahore in June, for which Mr. Qadri wants arrests made and a legal case launched.


    The political crisis has paralysed the government and raised questions about Pakistan’s democratic stability.
    The government enjoys a majority with ruling PML-N having 190 members in a House of 342.


    Upping the ante against Mr. Sharif, Mr. Khan’s 34 lawmakers had resigned from the National Assembly on Friday. The resignations do not affect the stability of the government. (Special Reporter)

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