Hours after General Raheel Sharif's mediation, the protesters and the government in Pakistan were trading charges yesterday on who was responsible for the army's mediation.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the National Assembly yesterday that "neither had I asked army nor the armed forces sought a role in the present political crisis." Sharif sought to scotch media reports that it was he who had "requested" the army to come to his rescue, saying that he approved the military chief's meeting with the two opposition leaders after they had requested it. Both Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan contested Sharif's statement.
Contradicting Sharif's statement, military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa tweeted, "COAS (Chief of Army Staff) was asked by the Govt to play facilitative role for resolution of current impasse, in yesterday's meeting, at #PM House." In a bid to save face, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar claimed that it was the Prime Minister who had approved army's role. Responding to Sharif's statement on protest leaders requesting the army to intervene, an angry PAT chief Qadri shot back, "I say this categorically that the Prime Minister asked the army to intervene. I am saying, on the record, that we did not make any request asking the army to intervene." "I had not even spoken to the army chief before our meeting yesterday," Qadri said, adding that Sharif made the statement after he saw his government was losing strength. The fiery cleric claimed that Sharif was lying. Khan also slammed the premier for saying Qadri and he asked for the army to intervene.
The army had earlier asked all stakeholders in the crisis to hold "meaningful" talks to end the crisis. In its 67-year history, Pakistan has witnessed three coups, including one against Sharif in 1999 by the then army chief General Parvez Musharraf. The army, which has so far been passive in the confrontation between the government and protesters, has a history of capturing power from democratically elected governments.