Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan says talks with government suspended

Talks suspended but not ended, because of ‘government high-handedness’

Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan speaks to supporters during a mass anti-government protest for the seventh day in Islamabad today. Thousands of protesters have besieged Pakistan’s parliament in a bid to overthrow the government. Photograph: Bilawal Arbab/EPA

Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan speaks to supporters during a mass anti-government protest for the seventh day in Islamabad today. Thousands of protesters have besieged Pakistan’s parliament in a bid to overthrow the government. Photograph: Bilawal Arbab/EPA

 

An opposition politician leading protesters trying to bring down Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif said today that talks with the government had been suspended, as the continuing impasse raised fears for the nuclear-armed country’s stability.

Former cricketer Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who controls a network of Islamic schools and hospitals, have been leading protests in the capital, Islamabad, since last Friday.

About 2,000 demonstrators gathered on the main road outside parliament for a second day today, hours after talks on an end to the turmoil between Mr Khan and the government finally got going.

Allegations

But with neither the opposition willing to give up on their insistence that Mr Sharif resigns over allegations of corruption and election rigging, nor the prime minister willing to quit after his landslide election win, any negotiations soon ended.

“We sent our team to hold talks with them, but how will our talks succeed? Our first point is that Nawaz Sharif should resign,” Mr Khan said. “Talks are finished.”

Disrespectful

Dawa Khan, a Karachi-based spokesman for Mr Khan’s party, said the government had angered Mr Khan’s team by using disrespectful language about them in parliament. Government representatives were not available for comment.

“They were suspended because of government high-handedness but not ended,” said Shafqat Mahmood, a member of Mr Khan’s negotiating team. “If their attitude changes, they can begin again. But our demands remain the same.”

Shahid Mursaleen, a spokesman for Qadri, said government representatives were due to meet Qadri late today.

The protests have raised concern about stability in the country of 180 million people, at a time when the government is battling a Taliban insurgency and Nato troops are withdrawing from neighbouring Afghanistan.– (Reuters)