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Nawaz Sharif rules out use of force against protesters

PTI 22 Aug 2014, 10:11:24 AM IST
Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today ruled out use of force to dislodge the protesters, led by Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahirul Qadri, camping in the heart of the Pakistani capital.

Talking to senior journalists in Islamabad, he offered to resolve the political deadlock through talks and showed willingness to enter into a dialogue with the protesting leaders.

"We are showing great restraint because women and children are among the protesters," said Sharif.

The prime minister, however, refused to step down saying it will deepen the political crisis.

He said the majority of political parties have backed him in the Parliament and were supporting democracy and supremacy of rule of law.

"Out of the 12 political parties in Parliament, 11 have given their support to our party and the democratic process," he said.

The prime minister's remarks today came on the eighth day of the protest launched by Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahirul Qadri, demanding his resignation alleging rigging in the polls last year.

In that election, Sharif's PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's PTI got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature.

The mass demonstration has paralyzed the capital and caused panic among the foreign diplomats living in the Red Zone after the protesters entered into it.

The government yesterday launched talks with both Khan and Qadri but the process was stalled after the protesters accused the government of planning to launch a crackdown on them.

Khan and Qadri again addressed their supporters this evening and promised to continue  the protest until Sharif bows out.

"If all of you leave this venue, I will still stay back and protest till Sharif leaves," Khan said.