Islamabad: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and chief of the main opposition party Nawaz Sharif yesterday agreed that people would not allow any attempt to derail the democratic process in Pakistan, according to an official statement.
He discussed the prevailing political situation in the country with the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PM-N) by telephone, the statement said, without directly referring to a planned massive march onto Islamabad on January 14 by Islamic scholar Tahirul Qadri, head of Tehreek Minhaj ul Quran (TMQ) organisation.
Qadri is demanding formation by January 10 of an honest, impartial caretaker government through consultations involving all stakeholders including the judiciary and the armed forces in order to carry out electoral reforms before holding the next general elections.
The TMQ leader has aid if the demand was ignored he would lead a march of millions of people to the national capital where a sit-in would continue till the objective was achieved.
The army has categorically denied speculation that it may be behind the campaign launched by Qadri last month with an address to a big crowd in Lahore, capital of the country’s most populous province Punjab, where the PML-N is in power.
The official statement said the prime minister and the opposition leader “agreed that democracy was the way forward and the people of Pakistan would not allow any attempt to derail the democratic process in the country.”
It quoted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as saying that “Pakistan had lived with the horrors of so-called slogans of revolutions and long marches” and that the best way to ascertain the people’s wishes was through the ballot.
The prime minister said that restoration of democracy owed itself to arduous struggle of political forces in the country and the system needed continuity to evolve.
He said that it was sign of political maturity that all political forces were on the same page as far as need for continuity of democratic system was concerned.
The prime minister said that the government was committed to the holding of fair, free and transparent elections in the country as per law and the constitution and assured Sharif that all necessary steps would be taken to achieve this objective, according to the statement.
While a date for the general election is yet to be announced, the government has said the polls may be held in April or May under a neutral caretaker setup.
The government was stung by a surprise move on the part of its major ally Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which extended all-out support to Qadri’s reform campaign and said it would fully participate in his planned march while remaining in the ruling coalition.
Another ally, PML-Q also publicly supported Qadri’s mission but without committing to take part in the Lahore to Islamabad march.