Islamabad: Pakistan government on Thursday reached out to fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has been camping outside Parliament along with thousands of protesters for the fourth day in a row demanding the government's resignation and dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies. A four-member committee, formed by the government, held talks with Qadri.
The panel includes Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Farooq Sattar and Awami National Party leader Afrasiyab Khattak.
Earlier on Thursday, Qadri had extended a deadline he had set for the Pakistan government to act on his demands after being contacted by emissaries for a dialogue. Qadri had earlier given the government a 90-minute deadline to act on his demands by 3 pm. He later addressed his supporters camping on Jinnah Avenue and said he had now given the government time till 3.45 pm.
The cleric said the government had contacted him about holding talks and sought more time so that a delegation could meet him at the site of his protest near Parliament. He said a delegation of all parties in the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party was coming to meet him and discuss his demands.
Qadri urged his supporters not to leave till the talks were completed and a written agreement was hammered out.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf directed the committee to "immediately hold talks" with Qadri. Qadri said he had set only one condition for talks that Interior Minister Rehman Malik should not be part of the government delegation.
"We will leave only after victory," he said from inside his bulletproof container.
Qadri has given no indication of what he intended to do if the government fails to act on his demands. "There will be no protest or sit-in tomorrow. We have to finish it by the end of this day. I am giving talks, peace and democracy a final chance," he had said earlier in the day.