The National Assembly session scheduled for Friday was adjourned till Monday evening after a lawmaker pointed out lack of quorum five minutes after it started.
The assembly's adjournment considerably irked the opposition, which had already expressed its disappointment a day earlier for Prime Minister Imran Khan's absence from the assembly at a time when the country is facing nationwide protests by religious groups.
Soon after a recitation from the Holy Quran, Agha Hassan of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal) pointed out lack of quorum. Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri subsequently ordered a head count and then adjourned the session till Monday 5pm after finding that the quorum was not complete.
Under the rules, the presence of one-fourth of the members (86) of the 342-member house is required to maintain quorum.
The opposition later used the adjournment of the assembly as a pretext to refuse a meeting with a government delegation that had support bipartisan support for a parliamentary resolution against the protesters.
The PPP's Raja Parvez Ashraf, who spoke to media after meeting Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif, said: "It is without precedent that the government itself pointed out quorum and then adjourned the session."
"The entire nation is disturbed. We should be kept informed minute by minute about what's happening in the country."
"All roads, schools and hospitals are closed," he claimed. "It is strange that, instead of taking the opposition into confidence, the government adjourned the assembly [session]."
"We went to the deputy speaker but could not speak to him. This non-serious attitude is beyond comprehension. The PPP leadership had proposed that the parties sit and decide how to proceed together."
"We were told that the government was going to brief the opposition, but they're still missing. The opposition is still ready to talk — but we can only talk when the government is available," he said.
However, he also made it clear that the PPP would not support a forceful solution to the situation. "We want a resolution through dialogue," Ashraf said.
The opposition parties have so far clearly refused to support the government in case it decides to use force to re-establish its writ. Some opposition leaders had also criticised the 'forceful manner' in which Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the agitating parties to not challenge the state and disrupt civilian life.
PML-N refuses to discuss protest till assembly is reconvened
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb had expressed a willingness to meet with them and had promised to respond as to what time would be suitable.
"However, it's been four hours and we have received no word from them," said Mazari.
"I am leaving now, but Fawad Chaudhry will still be here," she added.
She said before leaving that a meeting had been held successfully with PPP representatives and that their focal person, Naveed Qamar, had been apprised of the ongoing law and order situation.
However, Mazari's disappointment at the PML-N's no-show did not sit well with the opposition party's leaders.
"The government itself broke quorum and did not complete the formality of ringing the bell," Khwaja Asif complained when approached by the media to comment on the issue.
He said the opposition had been scheduled to address parliament today, which was "sabotaged by deferring the session".
"If the government wants to hold talks with us, they should do so in the assembly," Asif asserted.
"Given the current situation, if the government proceeds with the policy it has undertaken, it will cause things to worsen," he warned.
"Imran Khan is the one who began this dirty tradition of sit-ins," Asif said. "It is because of his precedent we are faced with this situation today."
He insisted that the assembly's session be reconvened to deliberate how to tackle the situation.
Meanwhile, former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal rubbished PTI's claim that the opposition was unwilling to hold talks.
"This government is non-serious and is not fit to be in power," he remarked, adding that because of the government's steps, the country been forced into a critical situation.
"Thousands of people have besieged the streets. We wanted to find a solution to the current situation in the assembly, but the government fraudulently deferred the session," he said.
He said that if the government wants to talk to the opposition, then it should immediately call a session and the opposition will summon its members to attend it.
"In the face of such grave conditions, making the National Assembly a rubber stamp is a big example of the lack of seriousness of the government," Iqbal said, concluding by saying that whatever talks that will be held with the government will be held in the assembly.
Shahbaz Sharif was then asked by a reporter what he would have done had he been the premier.
"The PML-N has given its stance regarding this," Shahbaz responded.
He said the situation "will have to be dealt with wisdom and prudence".
When asked if he would cooperate with the government, Shahbaz replied by saying: "Yes we have already spoken about this. We will cooperate with them."