Pak PM talks to allies and foes on Qadri threat

PM Raja Pervez Ashraf reached out to Pak`s top leadership to thwart a cleric`s plans to pressure the government on the formation of a caretaker administration.

Islamabad: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Friday day reached out to Pakistan`s top political leadership, including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, to thwart a cleric`s plans to pressure the government on the formation of a caretaker administration to oversee the upcoming general election.

Ashraf contacted several political allies and foes, including Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and Sharif, and held a meeting with senior PML-Q leaders during the day to discuss the threat posed by Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran chief Tahir-ul-Qadri.

Qadri recently returned to Pakistan after living in Canada for seven years and shook up political circles by threatening to lead a "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad on January 14 if the Pakistan People`s Party-led government does not consult the army and judiciary on the formation of the caretaker government.

Politicians have accused Qadri, who has a huge following, of being a front for the powerful security establishment.

Prime Minister Ashraf telephoned PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif this afternoon and both leaders agreed that "democracy was the way forward and the people of Pakistan would not allow any attempt to derail the democratic process", said a statement issued by the premier`s office.

Though the statement did not identify the forces trying to derail the democratic process, remarks made by Ashraf and Sharif made it clear that they were referring to Qadri.

Sharif said Pakistan had "lived with the horrors of so-called slogans of revolutions and long marches".

He said the best way to ascertain the people`s wishes is through the ballot.

Ashraf said democracy was restored due to the "arduous struggle of political forces" and the system needs "continuity to evolve".

He said it was a sign of political maturity that "all political forces were on the same page" as far as the continuity of the democratic system is concerned.

The premier said his government is committed to holding fair, free and transparent polls according to the law and Constitution.

Sources said the PPP and PML-N had set aside their political differences to counter the threat posed by Qadri, who in the past backed dictators like Pervez Musharraf.

The PML-N, which rules Punjab province, has said it will not impede Qadri`s proposed "long march" but the provincial assembly yesterday unanimously adopted a resolution that condemned the cleric`s bid to "sabotage the democratic system".

The resolution, moved jointly by the treasury and opposition benches, called on all political forces to unite to thwart moves by "anti-democracy elements" to postpone the general election, which is expected to be held in April or May.

Prime Minister Ashraf also telephones ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, who said his party`s goal is establishing a sustainable democracy.

Khan reiterated his support to the PPP-led coalition and said any attempt to create hurdles for the democratic process would be unacceptable.

The premier also met senior PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi this evening and discussed the political situation.

The PML-Q leaders assured Ashraf of their "unstinted support" and of their firm commitment to strengthen democracy.

Ashraf said consensus among political forces across party lines is needed for continuity of the democratic process and stability.

The premier also met Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who said all political forces would join hands to resist those trying to derail the democratic process.