ISLAMABAD: Authorities yesterday filed a murder case naming the prime minister as a suspect, officials said, to defuse a fortnight of anti-government protests.
Army chief General Raheel Sharif is mediating in a fortnight-long political crisis that has paralysed the government of Nawaz Sharif, opposition leaders.
“General Raheel has asked us to resolve the issue through talks,” said cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
“I want to tell you all that I will not disappoint you. Talks have already started,” he added.
Thousands of protesters led by populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and Khan have camped outside the parliament building in Islamabad to demand Sharif’s resignation.
The two-week showdown has rattled the nuclear-armed state and shaken Sharif’s government 15 months into a five-year mandate.
As well as wide-ranging calls for political reform, Qadri had also demanded police bring murder charges against Sharif over the killing of at least 10 of his followers in clashes with police in the eastern city of Lahore.
A statement from the prime minister’s office said orders had been given to register a case.
“The federal government has decided to authorise registration of model town First Information Report (FIR) as per complaint of the aggrieved,” the statement said. A senior police official said the report named 21 people, including Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif who is Chief Minister of Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital.
A week of on-off talks have made little obvious headway and Qadri’s team said they had failed and the cleric made a final speech, telling protesters go home.
Khan appeared isolated in his struggle to bring down Sharif after Qadri’s speech.
Both had warned that yesterday would be a decisive day in their efforts to bring down the government, but Qadri’s camp issued a statement saying the government had met none of their demands and protesters could leave.
The departure of Qadri’s highly organised supporters from the protest area in the heart of Islamabad would undermine Khan’s efforts to breathe new life into his movement which many expect to fizzle out soon.
The atmosphere in the capital remained tense as security forces sent reinforcements to surround the protest area, reflecting expectations of possible violence or clashes after two weeks of broken ultimatums and unpredictable twists.
As talks on how to resolve the impasse repeatedly failed, the crowd in the so-called Red Zone which includes Sharif’s home, parliament and embassies has been grown thinner, leaving the area littered with rubbish and reeking of human waste.
Yet, in a show of defiance, some protesters have dug graves at the site to show they are prepared to die for their cause. Khan, appeared defiant, saying he would not abandon his demands.
“I will not leave here. I will not accept this monarchy. I want real democracy,” Khan told his supporters.
He wants Sharif to step down because he believes the prime minister rigged the election. Sharif, who denies that, won the vote by a landslide, taking 190 of the 342 seats it came to power after winning an election in May last year.