Pakistani military officials have demanded that the Nawaz Sharif-led government “share space with the army” in exchange for its support, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing sources within the Pakistani government.
In a meeting between government and military officials on Tuesday, the army assured the government that it was not planning a coup or engineering the protests in the capital city of Islamabad. However, it added that the government would not survive unless it agrees to share space with the military.
Relations between Nawaz Sharif -- who came to power in 2013 through the first democratic transition in Pakistan’s history -- and the country's army turned sour in March when Pervez Musharraf -- a former army chief and former president of Pakistan -- was put on trial for treason. Musharraf had snatched power from Sharif in 1999 through a military coup.
Sharif also reportedly irked army generals when he opposed a military offensive against Taliban insurgents in the north and northwest of the country.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters led by Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Tahir-ul-Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, gathered near the parliament in Islamabad, demanding Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. Khan said on Tuesday that he would enter the prime minister’s official residence if Sharif did not resign by Wednesday evening, Al Jazeera reported.
I want all Pakistanis 2 get here breaking all barriers. Warning police 2 release r ppl or v will punish them 4 unlawfully detaining r ppl
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 20, 2014
Qadri, however, said that he and his supporters will not attempt to enter the prime minister’s residence and will carry on with a “peaceful sit-in” until Sharif resigns.
The protesters have alleged that the 2013 elections, through which Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz, or PML-N, came to power, were rigged. They have also accused Sharif of indulging in widespread corruption and nepotism, and challenged the legitimacy of the government.
The Pakistani army, in an effort to defuse tensions, called for talks to resolve the political deadlock.
“The Situation requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse,” army spokesperson General Asim Saleem Bajwa reportedly said on Wednesday.