ISLAMABAD – The government of Pakistan and the opposition failed on Tuesday to reach an agreement to end the massive protest in Islamabad that called for the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan over alleged fraud during the 2018 elections.
“There is still the same position,” Pervez Khattak, defense minister and head of the government team negotiating with the opposition, said at a press conference.
Khattak added that “the government agreed to several demands of the opposition and talks will continue on rest of the demands.”
Akram Durrani of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which organized the protest, said that it was not planning to back down and would continue to demand Imran Khan’s resignation.
“We are firm on our demands. Our stance is the same as it was before,” said Durrani, leader of the team negotiating with the government on behalf of his party and other opposition parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Peoples Party of the Bhuttos that have joined the protest.
Thousands of protesters have camped in the capital, where they arrived on Thursday after starting a march from the southern city of Karachi on Sunday.
Some 35,000 people demonstrated in Islamabad on Friday calling for Khan’s resignation over alleged fraud during the 2018 elections, reportedly organized by the army.
Fazlur Rehman, the president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, had announced on Friday that Khan had two days to resign.
The government categorically ruled out the prime minister’s resignation.
Khattak said that “nobody would be allowed to create instability. Pakistan’s armed forces are an impartial state institution which always supports democratically elected governments.”
The army has ruled the country for almost half of its history since its independence in 1947 and even in democratic periods, it exerts a great influence.
Apart from the alleged electoral fraud, protesters denounce the situation of the economy, marred by high inflation and low growth that has especially affected the poor.
This is the first massive opposition challenge after Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party won the July 2018 elections.