After nearly a week of stonewalling, both Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) began talks with the government, a day after the army made it clear that both sides must put an end to the impasse through discussion.
However, PTI announced later on Thursday that it was calling off talks in protest of what it claimed to be the government’s efforts to prevent movement in Islamabad’s ‘Red Zone’.
The developments come as both party chiefs have stuck to their guns and continued to demand the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet.
Meanwhile, the army has refused to mediate between the government and the protesting parties to defuse the political crisis and has instead asked both sides to work for a settlement on their own.
Follow our coverage of the political situation below.
Imran rejects Khurshid, willing to negotiate with Kaira
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Thursday night expressed his reservations over Pakistan People’s Party leader Syed Khurshid Shah, but said that he is open to the idea of Qamar Zaman Kaira representing the government-backed team of negotiators.
“Kaira is a ‘clean’ man…he says what he means. Khurshid Shah has NAB cases pending against him, how will he be able to stand against Nawaz Sharif?” he said addressing a crowd of supporters.
Imran also lashed out at Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai.
“I thought Achakzai was a conscionable man, but it appears he has sold his conscience for this brother’s governorship,” he said.
The PTI chairman also called out to citizens of Karachi, Lahore and other cities to join demonstrations and assemble in protest against the government.
‘PTI is after Nawaz, PAT after Shahbaz’
Members of the government’s negotiating committees on Thursday night said that leadership of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was only interested in resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while PTI leaders were after his elder brother, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
PML-Z chief Ijazul Haq told Dawn.com that Dr Tahirul Qadri’s PAT was also demanding to register an FIR of the Model Town tragedy against 21 people including CM Sharif and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. He said that the prime minister’s resignation was not first priority of the PAT.
Haq is a part of the facilitation committee, along with MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi, formed to facilitate the government’s talks with Dr Qadri’s party.
Meanwhile, PML-N leader Ahasan Iqbal told Dawn.com that the PTI leadership was interested in getting PM Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. However, he added that his party has conveyed to Imran Khan’s party that talks should proceed without eying resignation of any notable including PM Sharif – by Irfan Haider in Islamabad
Protesters stand politically isolated, says Fazl
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday said that protesters that are staging sit-ins in the federal capital have been politically isolated by extending unconstitutional demands, DawnNews reported.
Speaking to media representatives after holding an hour-long meeting with Amir Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq here, he said that the first priority should be to protect the Parliament and the provincial assemblies.
The JUI-F chief vowed to keep putting his party’s efforts to protect the democratic institutions of the country.
“In first step, we will have to protect the assemblies,” he said. “This no-confidence motion was presented to safeguard the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly,” Fazl added.
He said that no parliamentary party was backing the demand of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.
'Not too much time left for peaceful solution'
On the occasion, Amir JI Sirajul Haq said that all political forces should stand united to diffuse prevailing political turmoil. He reiterated that the issues should be resolved through dialogue.
Answering a question regarding the deadlock in talks, he said that there is not too much time left for both the government and the PTI and PAT protesters to resolve the issue peacefully.
The JI chief regretted that the PTI sit-in at the D-Chowk has turned into a ‘music concert’ with men and women dancing on DJ’s tunes together.
He warned against ‘elements’ who he claimed were involved in fueling the crisis further.
Shujaat, Elahi meet US ambassador
The chief of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi met US Ambassador Richard Olson today, sources say.
According to sources close to the PML-Q leadership, the meeting which took place at the ambassador's office discussed the prevailing political situation in Pakistan.
The ongoing anti-government protests in Islamabad, led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), were also discussed during the meeting, the sources added.
Altaf urges govt, protestors to act with patience
Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain urged the leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and parties supporting anti-government protests to be patient.
Altaf also urged the government to avoid an attitude of using force and hurling threats.
He urged both the government and protestors to resume dialogue without wasting any time and to resolve their issues through reconciliation.
Govt should not drive us to a point on confrontation: Shireen Mazari
The numbers of our supporters at the venue appear to be dwindling because the government is not letting people through, Shireen Mazari told DawnNews in an interview.
On the army's call to resolve the political crisis, Mazari said the government should pay heed to the army's stance.
The government is not sincere in dealing with the issues, Mazari said, adding that the government's intentions were clear from its sacking of Islamabad's IG police.
In response to a question as to why family members of PTI leaders were not partaking in the protests in Islamabad, Mazari said PTI was not a party that operated through family inheritance.
Mazari said the government should not drive us to a point of confrontation and where we cannot control our supporters.
No action taken against protesters: Information Minister
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said Thursday that no action had been carried out against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) protesters in Islamabad, adding that this trend is going to continue.
He said no such step had been taken by the government which could be termed as a reason for suspending negotiations.
He furthermore said that no pressure had been exerted by the police on those participating in the protests.
The information minister said unconstitutional demands of any group could not be recognised.
“If we send water, we are criminals. If we don’t send water were are criminals,” the information minister quipped.
Additional contingents of 111 brigade deployed at Parliament House
Additional contingents of the 111 brigade were being deployed at the Parliament House.
Brigade commander Brigadier Sarfaraz had arrived at the Parliament House to review security arrangements.
Police and Rangers contingents are also on high alert in the Red Zone of the federal capital with some 40,000 security personnel deployed around Constitution Avenue. — Reported by Mateen Haider
PTI calls off talks with govt
Senior PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Thursday that the party has decided that negotiations with the government will stay suspended until it stops the “crackdown against party workers”.
Speaking to Dawn, PTI leader and member of the negotiations committee Dr Arif Alvi claimed that the government is not serious about dialogue.
“They should tell us where they want to take this dialogue. They have ‘containerised’ us. It is impossible to get into or out of the Red zone,” said Alvi. “We cannot negotiate with them as long as they continue with their crackdown (against party workers).”
Additionally, Qureshi said that PTI will not start the negotiation process with the government until additional containers – which have been placed again – are not removed.
Imran’s derisive speech hurt millions: Saad Rafique
Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said Thursday that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran’s Khan speech laced with abuse had hurt millions of Pakistanis.
He said Khan's demands could be resolved through dialogue with the Parliament.
The railway minister questioned that if electoral reforms were to be carried out who would do that if not the legislators.
He quipped saying if those who are protesting will carry out the require legislation.
The minister said the government was demonstrating flexibility, adding that those staging protests should also exhibit some flexibility.
Rafique moreover said that there was a conspiracy to weaken the state, adding that the misunderstanding that the Parliament was becoming paralysed should be removed.
No extra-constitutional changes in Pakistan acceptable: US
The United States has said that no extra-constitutional transfer of power in Pakistan was acceptable and warned that those “attempting to impose these changes” should not do so.
“Nawaz Sharif was elected and is prime minister. There is a government that was elected and is in place,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said at a briefing in Washington.
“We support the constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan...That was a process they followed, an election they had, and we are focused on working with Pakistan,” said Harf.
“And we do not support any extra-constitutional changes to that democratic system or the people attempting to impose them.”
Nawaz, Mamnoon discuss political situation
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday called on President Mamnoon Hussain at the Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad.
During the meeting, the premier took the president into confidence on the prevailing political crisis and demands put forward by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leadership.
According to credible sources, the premier also took approval from the president on certain important matters.
The president agreed that the prevailing political crisis should be resolved through political approaches and dialogue.
Hussain appreciated the political initiative taken by Nawaz to hold talks with the PTI and PAT.
Both the leaders agreed that the prevailing crisis was affecting the country and should be resolved soon.
The PTI and PAT are protesting against alleged rigging in the 2013 elections and are demanding the resignation of PM Nawaz whose government they call the outcome of a rigged election.
Lawyers' observe strike against PTI, PAT protests
Lawyers with the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) are observing a strike today against the sit-ins held by the PAT and the PTI in Islamabad saying the campaigns were putting the parliamentary democratic system in peril.
Lawyers from Sindh and Punjab are also scheduled to hold rallies and sit-ins in several areas of Lahore and Karachi against the protests by PTI and PAT.
The decision to hold a countrywide strike was taken at a joint meeting of the premier lawyers’ bodies — the PBC and the SCBA — who took exception to Imran Khan’s call for civil disobedience urging the PTI chief to recall it.
Little headway with PTI
The first effort at negotiations between the government and PTI ended without any progress though with a resolve to meet again.
Within twenty hours of the first message of the army suggesting that the stakeholders reach a solution, an intransigent PTI chief Imran Khan agreed to talks and by Wednesday midnight the party’s five-member team was huddled up with a government team at a conference room at a five-star hotel.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Dr Arif Alvi, Asad Umer and Jahangir Tareen met Governor Punjab Chaudhry Sarwar, federal ministers Zahid Hamid, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and retired Lt General Abdul Qadir Baloch at the hotel.
The security personnel standing outside confirmed that the two sides were talking to each other behind closed doors.
When the two sides came out, Qureshi told the media that PTI had presented its six demands to the government team and that the latter would provide a response by Thursday.
Though the meeting appeared to end in a deadlock, the two sides appeared hopeful and friendly towards each other.
The next meeting will take place on Thursday.
Signs of thaw as all sides agree to talk
Talks began after charged party workers, spurred on by Dr Tahirul Qadri, laid siege to Parliament House while a session of the National Assembly was being held. Tensions were only quelled after the military contingent deployed at parliament intervened.
PAT arrived at the negotiating table first, happy to talk to government representatives in the public eye. The government side also demonstrated a will to negotiate as it sent a couple of groups to Qadri’s container on Constitution Avenue, even though he did not participate in discussions himself.
PTI preferred to negotiate behind closed doors and held discussions with a five-member government committee late into the night, which adjourned with a pledge to meet again the next afternoon.
Army advises parties to hold talks, refuses to mediate
The army has refused to mediate between the government and the protesting parties to defuse the political crisis and has instead asked both sides to work for a settlement on their own.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali met Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif for the fourth time in eight days on Wednesday. They were told to directly engage the PTI and the PAT in a “meaningful dialogue” and find out an “urgent solution”.
Gen Sharif asked the government to demonstrate “seriousness” in opening talks with the protesters.
A source privy to the discussions between the government and the army chief said the civilian leadership, besides seeking help for security, had been asking for assistance in negotiating a settlement.