–Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak says protesters will face the music if they breach agreement
–Says govt to move court against Fazl over making statement for PM’s arrest
–Committee says state institutions are ‘neutral’, will act according to constitution if chaos ‘spreads’
–PM directs Interior Ministry to be prepared for any ‘untoward incident’
ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, who heads the government delegation negotiating with the joint opposition, on Saturday rejected the demands of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation and snap polls made by the Azadi marchers led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman a day earlier.
Addressing a press conference here alongside other members of the committee, the minister said “resignation was out of the question” and warned the leaders of opposition parties that the government will not show “leniency if they backtracked from the earlier agreement reached with the government”.
He also warned the opposition leaders to stick to the agreement signed with the government. He said: “If opposition resorts to violence, any damage caused will be the sole responsibility of opposition.”
On Friday, the JUI-F chief had asked the PM to resign within two days, hinting at a change in the marchers’ strategy if the premier failed to go home. He had said the protesters could also arrest the PM.
Reacting to the statement, he said: “The government will approach the court against Fazl’s threat of forcibly arresting the premier. It amounts to mutiny and we will be submitting our plea in court on Monday.”
Khattak stressed that there was a signed agreement between the opposition and federal government and it stated that if it is not followed, action will be taken. “They just want to create unrest,” he said. “They will not succeed.”
He also commented on the remarks made by Fazl against the state institutions regarding their “impartiality”, saying all the institutions were “neutral”.
“Maulana sahib has criticised the state institutions more rather than the government,” he said. “For the first time, all the state institutions are neutral. They will act in accordance with the constitution if chaos spreads.”
Criticism on national institutions by JUI-F leaders will not serve any purpose, he added.
PTI stalwart Asad Umar, who was also attending the presser, intervened and said, “What can be the most sensitive issue for the army — the foreign policy”.
“They [the PML-N leaders] had invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to their home in a private party but the army didn’t stop them. So I want to table a question for Shehbaz Sharif. Has the army refrained them from establishing schools, or hospital or reforming police, or judiciary. Please reveal the details about what the army had refrained them?”
PTI leader Shafqat Mahmood alleged that the JUI-F’s agitation has served Indian interests. It shifted the focus of attention from India-occupied Kashmir to Islamabad, he said.
“Imran Khan has very effectively highlighted the Kashmir cause in the world. The protest has diverted attention from the Kashmir issue,” he said.
When asked about a demand by the opposition to reverse the extension given to the army chief, the government’s negotiating team categorically denied that it was one of the demands by the protesting parties. He further clarified that the army is playing a “completely neutral” role.
PM CHAIRS CORE COMMITTEE MEETING:
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran informed the government’s committee that he will not accept any “unconstitutional and undemocratic” demands of the Rehbar Committee with regards to the Azadi March.
He was chairing a meeting of the party’s core committee discussed the prevailing political situation in the country. The meeting also included PTI leaders Asad Umar, Shafqat Mahmood, Shireen Mazari and Faisal Javed Khan.
According to sources, the negotiating team led by Defence Minister Khattak will also contact the Rehbar Committee over Fazl’s speech.
PM Imran has advised the Khattak-led committee to continue negotiating with the Rehbar Committee.
Sources said the prime minister advised Khattak and other members of the team to not to get blackmailed by the protesters. He added that negotiations should not happen if there was an attempt to blackmail the government.
The prime minister said that the committee after meeting the Rehbar Committee should inform him of what democratic right the protesters are demanding. Sources also said that PM Imran instructed the interior ministry to be prepared for any untoward incident.