Islamabad, Pakistan: The government and opposition are poised to start negotiating the formation of a caretaker administration to oversee the run-up to the polls as soon as parliament is dissolved, which is due to happen in March. An election date has yet to be announced.
Qadri’s platform hinges on a demand that the judiciary bars corrupt politicians from running for office and that the army plays a possible role in the formation of the caretaker government.
One senior military officer, who said he was speaking in a purely personal capacity, said there was no appetite in the military to repeat the coups seen in Pakistan’s past, but added the stand-off could be resolved if the army played a role as a “moderator”.
“We should try as far as possible to abide by the constitution and law in looking for change. The army chief has made this clear,” the officer said.
“But things seem to be moving beyond control,” the officer added. “It is totally incorrect to say the army is behind Qadri. But if he brings thousands of people to the streets and things get worse, there may be very few options.”
The rally began on Monday and many of the protesters had stayed on the streets overnight. The spokesman for Qadri said his supporters had prevented government forces from arresting him.
Besides the protest, the government is battling several other challenges.
Tens of thousands of Shi’ite Muslims, a minority in Pakistan, began burying the victims of a sectarian attack in a mass grave on Monday, ending an extraordinary three-day protest over one of the worst such attacks in the country’s history.
People from the Shi’ite Hazara community had been holding a vigil next to the bodies of the 96 people killed in Thursday’s bombings in the city of Quetta to demand better protection from a rising tide of such attacks.
The Shi’ite leaders only agreed to hold the burials after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf travelled to the provincial capital and agreed to some of their demands.
The government is also struggling to control Taliban insurgents based near the border with Afghanistan. Six paramilitary soldiers were killed in a gunbattle with militants in northwest Pakistan overnight, military officials said.