Night Watch

Pakistan: The constitutional and political crisis deepened. On 19 August Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received strong support from the members of the National Assembly and said he will not resign, defying the ultimatum by the protestors that he resign by Wednesday evening.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Army called on the political parties to resolve the crisis through "meaningful dialogue." That statement repeated the position of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in talks about security with the Interior Minister and the governor of Punjab Province on Monday.

The Army permitted protestors to enter the "Red Zone" to protest outside the National Assembly. Protestors did not enter the parliament building and did not invade the prime minister's official residence, as they had threatened on the 19th.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan also is involved. It summoned the leaders of the opposition to a hearing on allegations that their protest is unconstitutional.

Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that the Constitution provided a procedure to remove the prime minister, and anyone who would try to employ any unconstitutional step would create chaos and anarchy. "No one can be allowed to spread anarchy in the name of freedom of expression," he said.

The Attorney General argued that any effort to remove the government by coercion was illegal and unconstitutional. Therefore, the sit-ins by the PTI and PAT (the opposition parties) to remove the present government violated articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Constitution.

One of the opposition parties, the PAT, has agreed in principle to hold talks with the government, but wants the PTI to join them. The government said that the resignation of the prime minister is not open for discussion.
During this Watch, the BBC reported both opposition parties have begun talks with the government.

Comment: The protests have been large and disruptive, but they have not been violent. The government's direction to avoid using force against the protestors appears to have contributed to the maintenance of civil order.
The Supreme Court's intervention has become a normal feature of political unrest since 2008 when Musharraf was forced from office.


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