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Central & South Asia

Pakistan PM scoffs at resignation demands

Nawaz Sharif says he will not cave in to protests seeking his resignation in first major speech since crisis erupted.

Last updated: 27 Aug 2014 17:04
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Efforts to negotiate an end to the crisis have made little headway so far [EPA]

Pakistan's embattled prime minister has said he will not cave in to protests demanding his resignation, striking a defiant note in his first major speech since the crisis erupted two weeks ago.

Nawaz Sharif told parliament on Wednesday that his government would not be removed by the demonstrations led by Muslim cleric Tahir ul-Qadri and opposition leader Imran Khan, who has called off talks with the government for a second time.

Sharif said his Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government would stay the course, adding: "We are not going to be diverted by these things."

The journey for the supremacy of constitution and law in Pakistan will continue with full determination and, God willing, there will not be any interruption in it.

 - Nawaz Sharif, PM Pakistan

"The journey for the supremacy of constitution and law in Pakistan will continue with full determination and, God willing, there will not be any interruption in it," he said.

Thousands of Khan's and Qadri's followers have been protesting since August 14 demanding Sharif quit, claiming the election which swept him to power last year was rigged.

The crisis has rattled Sharif's government 15 months into a five-year term and prompted rumours the army may intervene to resolve matters.

In a country that has seen three military coups, the threat of army intervention casts a shadow over virtually every moment of political crisis.

Sharif said the plan to revive the ailing economy through major development and infrastructure projects - a key plank of the PML-N manifesto - would continue.

Shortly before Khan and Qadri began their protests with "long marches" from the eastern city of Lahore, Sharif announced a judicial commission to investigate rigging claims in some seats, but Khan rejected the offer.

The government has also set up a parliamentary committee to consider electoral reform and Sharif urged Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to support it.

The protests in Islamabad have so far been peaceful, with security forces - deployed in huge numbers in the capital - taking a hands-off approach to the demonstrations.

Efforts to negotiate an end to the crisis have made little headway, with Khan sticking to his hardline demand that Sharif must quit.

On Wednesday, he told supporters the time for negotiations was now over.

Earlier, Pakistan's railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique told parliament the government was prepared to meet all of the PTI's demands to investigate rigging barring the prime minister's resignation.

"They said they have suspicions of rigging, we told them that we would constitute a judicial commission and if rigging is proved, not only the prime minister but all of us will resign," he said.

"But they are insisting that the prime minister should resign even if it's for 30 days. Is this the way this country of 180 million people should be governed?"

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Source:
AFP
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