Pakistan Parliament meets to end deadlock

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Opposition lawmkaers back Sharif, vow to defend the constitution and the parliament amid protests by Imran’s supporters

Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with ruling party lawmakers thumped their desks as opposition legislators voiced support for him in the Pakistani parliament amid ongoing protests by two parties trying to force him to resign.

The speakers from the opposition, while participating in a debate on the turmoil in Islamabad, at a joint session of the two houses of the parliament, vowed to defend the constitution and the parliament.

They lashed out at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri for “laying a siege” on the capital’s sensitive ‘red zone’ through their party workers and supporters.

At the same time, the opposition lawmakers criticised the 14-month-old government over its unsatisfactory performance and failure to deliver.

While the session was underway, PAT workers vacated the lawn of the parliament after camping there for days.

Awami National Party (ANP) senator Haji Adeel lamented that despite deployment of 40,000 police in Islamabad the protesters had paralysed government secretariat, violated the parliament’s sanctity and badly disrupted life in the national capital.

“We are with you, Mr. Prime Minister, for defence of democratic system, the constitution and the parliament, but we do not see the writ of the government in Islamabad,” the ANP senator said.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senator Raza Rabbani said it was unprecedented in the country’s history that opposition parties, lawyers and media were standing on one platform for defence of the constitution and the parliament.

The senior PPP leader cautioned against “conspiracy” to undo the democratic system by “bringing puppets on the streets.”

Rabbani criticised the government for “conceding political space” by summoning army troops in aid of the civil authority in Islamabad and having asked the army chief to play a facilitative role toward resolution of the political deadlock.

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said the protesting groups have tarnished the image of the country.

The minister said a parliamentary committee should be formed to determine punishment for those who stormed the parliament in a bid to send a message to the world that Pakistan, a nuclear power, had become a dysfunctional state.

Ahsan Iqbal said the sit-in protests in the capital spoiled the government’s hard work to restore foreign investors’ confidence in the country’s economy.

While the parliament will resume the debate on Friday morning, leaders of different political parties were collectively and individually striving to help evolve a compromise solution to the political crisis.

Workers and supporters of PAT and PTI continued their 20-day old sit-in near the parliament despite heavy rainfall, though the showers, lack of proper food and exhaustion did reduce the size of the crowd.

The government has agreed to a proposed high-level judicial probe into alleged massive rigging in 2013 election, electoral reforms and reconstitution of election commission, but firmly rebuffed so far the demand that Sharif step down.

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