(MENAFN - Arab News) ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has denied asking army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif to mediate with opposition leaders and protesters who have camped for two weeks outside parliament in Islamabad demanding his resignation over alleged voting fraud.
He and Interior Minister Chaudhry Ali Nisar Khan told parliament that the request for military help had come from the camps of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri.
The interior minister also said the intransigence of anti-government protest movements had left no alternative but mediation by the army to end a two-week political crisis that has shaken the nation. He told parliament the protesters' unwillingness to trust anyone had left no alternative but army mediation.
'Again and again they said they only trust the army and will only have talks through the army' he said.
'When a group or two parties has no faith in the judiciary the opposition lawyers or civil society and has no confidence in anybody what option remains for the government'
A furious row blew up almost immediately over the chain of events leading up to the army stepping in. Premier Sharif stressed that he had not asked for the intervention but was told by a military officer that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri had said they wanted to meet the army chief.
'I... told him that if they wanted to meet and if they have requested to meet then the army chief must meet them' he told parliament.
Qadri hotly denied this and demanded Nawaz Sharif resign.
'This is a lie a lie a lie. This request has been made by the prime minister and the government and I reject his claim' he told supporters.
Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa has meanwhile clarified on twitter that the army chief was asked by the government to play a role to resolve the crisis.
'COAS was asked by the government to play facilitative role for resolution of current impasse in the meeting at Prime Minister's House' said Gen. Bajwa in his latest tweet.
The interior minister said late on Friday that the military statement endorsed the government's stance in the crisis.
'Role of facilitation by army is within constitutional ambit and the statement endorses our stance' he said.
On Thursday the army chief met with Imran Khan and Qadri who afterward said they agreed to the military's role as 'mediator and guarantor' in further talks with the government.
Imran Khan said the general had also told him the army would guarantee an impartial judicial probe into allegations of vote fraud though Khan said he insisted 'there cannot be an independent investigation so long as Nawaz Sharif is prime minister.'
Sharif told lawmakers that neither he nor the army had 'sought any role in the mediation' but that he approved the military chief's meeting with the two opposition leaders after they had requested it.
Later on Friday Qadri insisted he too did not request the army's mediation.
The interior minister said that the military spokesman's statement was endorsing the government's stance of giving a 'facilitative role to the army but not as 'mediator and guarantor.'
He warned the protesting crowd against entering government buildings.
'If any attempt is made to create a situation they (Khan and Qadri) would be responsible for the consequences.'
Gen. Raheel Sharif held talks with Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan on Thursday in the standoff between the government and protesters.
Qadri and Imran Khan earlier announced Gen. Sharif would mediate and later the army chief met them both according to a military spokesman.
Qadri head of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) group said he met General Sharif for nearly three and a half hours early on Friday morning.
Imran Khan leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party once again insisted he would not leave the protest until the prime minister quits.
A fresh round of talks between Khan's party and government broke down while talks with Qadri were in progress.
Analyst Imtiaz Gul said that Sharif was likely to survive the crisis but would need to make major concessions to the army in exchange for its support.