Lahore: Opposition parties led by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday demanded that the Pakistan government should immediately announce the schedule for the next general election even as they pledged to oppose any unconstitutional attempt to derail democracy.
Former premier Sharif convened the meeting of some 20 opposition parties, including the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, as thousands of protesters led by cleric Tahir-ul Qadri camped outside the parliament in Islamabad to pressure the government to quit.
The opposition leaders presented a charter of demands that asked the government to immediately announce a schedule for forming a caretaker government and for holding the general election.
"We decided that the government should, without any delay, announce a schedule for the election and a caretaker government," Sharif told a news conference.
"Any change will take place only through free and fair elections. We will stop any unconstitutional step that leads to anarchy in the country," he said.
Democratic forces will resist any attack on democracy and the Constitution, he said.
Dismissing Qadri`s demand for dissolving the national and provincial assemblies and the Election Commission, Sharif said the opposition parties had agreed that they would thwart "any attempt aimed at keeping the people away from exercising their right to vote".
Sharif criticised the Pakistan People`s Party-led government, saying its "complete incompetence and failure" to control economic problems, terrorism and law and order had resulted in the current situation.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Fazlur Rehman criticised Qadri and said the cleric could not have launched such a protest without the "backing of someone". He refused to say who was supporting Qadri.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who has been tipped as the possible head of a caretaker government, said: "We have all united because there is a fear that some people are going to take unconstitutional and undemocratic steps. A line has been drawn between democratic and non- democratic forces."
Under the Constitution, a caretaker government replaces the outgoing administration for two months and oversees the polls.
PPP leaders have said after the government completes its term on March 16, polls are expected to be held at any time between May 5 and 15.