Pakistan opposition spurns govt offer for talks

By Aamir Latif, Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Opposition march to go ahead as planned as Khan rejects PM Sharif's offer for a Supreme Court commission to probe into rigging allegations over the last general polls

Opposition march to go ahead as planned as Khan rejects PM Sharif's offer for a Supreme Court commission to probe into rigging allegations over the last general polls

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s major opposition alliance led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan on Tuesday spurned a fresh offer by the government for the formation of a Supreme Court commission to probe into the allegations of rigging in the most recent general elections in May 2013. 

The offer thrown by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the nation on Tuesday evening in a bid to break the months-long deadlock was instantly rejected by Khan who vowed to kick off his long march on the capital as scheduled on August 14.

“The government is ready to constitute a three-member Supreme Court commission to probe into the allegations of rigging in the general elections,” Sharif who is serving for the third term as premier, said referring to Khan’s demand that he wanted the rigging probe through such a commission.

“My government is requesting the Supreme Court to form a three-member bench to probe into the allegations of rigging in the general elections,” Sharif added.

Khan however was quick to back out demanding Sharif’s resignation.

“As long as Nawaz Sharif is holding the office of the prime minister, there will be no use of the Supreme Court commission,” Khan told a press conference reacting to Sharif’s offer.

“Therefore, he must resign first, then we will accept the probe (into rigging claims) through the Supreme Court commission,” he added.

Khan also demanded the dissolution of the election commission blaming it for being a part of rigging in the general elections.

- Capital under blockade

As behind-the-door reconciliation efforts are underway to break the ice between the government and the opposition, so is the crackdown.

Hundreds of opposition workers belonging to Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan, Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) of Canada-returned politician cum religious scholar Dr Tahir ul Qadri in several towns of northeastern Punjab province - the epicenter of clashes between police and political activists - were arrested in a night-long swoop.

Hundreds of PTI workers heading towards Islamabad from southern Sindh province were stopped at Sindh-Punjab border where they were staging a sit-in.

Police have virtually besieged Islamabad by blocking all roads linking it to rest of the country in a bid to prevent the participants of long march from entering the capital.

The government has already called out to the army by invoking a special article in the constitution to assist the civil administration. 

The government has announced that it would not let the long march to enter the capital as analysts are expecting a massive showdown between police and the opposition workers in Lahore, the capital of Punjab where thousands of workers have already gathered to kick off their march on the capital on August 14.

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