Political tensions remained high in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Friday as opposition leaders traded threats with the ruling parties amid ongoing street protests in the heart of the city.
Opposition leader Imran Khan on Thursday said he would no longer compromise with the Pakistani government and vowed to continue protests and a sit-in against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif until he resigns. On Friday, despite those remarks and following the resignation of 34 members of his political party from parliament, talks were said to be on the verge of re-starting.
According to Agence France-Presse:
The party of Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan said Friday it was resuming talks with the government aimed at ending tense protests, even as it submitted the resignations of 34 lawmakers from parliament.
Former cricketer Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have led thousands of supporters demonstrating outside the legislature this week calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go.
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party said dialogue was restarting through contact with the governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, after calling off the talks a day earlier with the insistence that Sharif resign first.
"We are resuming talks with the government," PTI vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told AFP.
Khan, a former cricket star who is now chairman of the country's leading opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has joined forces with Tahirul Qadri, a cleric and leader of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), in a dramatic march on the capital of Islamabad that became a sit-in outside Parliament and other government buildings.
Protesters say Sharif's election was fraudulent after a landslide win landed him in office last year. Khan said the PTI had six demands, including Sharif's resignation, that the government had to meet to continue discussions, but the government said the demands had no legal basis and claimed the attempts to bring down the PM were "unconstitutional," BBC says.
Earlier this week, thousands of protesters had gathered at the high-security "red zone" in front of parliament, where they called for Sharif's resignation.
Khan also criticized the U.S. for its support of Sharif and what he called meddling in Pakistan's "internal affairs" after the U.S. issued a statement warning against "undemocratic change" in the country.
"We are not slaves of America," Khan said in a speech outside of parliament in Islamabad on Tuesday. "We do not polish their shoes."
"Are we [Pakistanis] children of lesser a god?" Khan said in his speech. "Why is there one law for us and another for you."
"I want to tell you -- don't take sides," Khan said, addressing the U.S. "How can you say Nawaz Sharif is a legitimate prime minister of Pakistan when his own ministers accepted rigging in elections?"
Addressing the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson, Khan said, "Richard, convey my message to the State Department. Firstly, they have no right to interfere in the politics of Pakistan. If you want Pakistan to be a friend of the US, we are willing, but please remember, a prime minister like Imran Khan can never be a stooge like Nawaz. No western democracy would accept such elections."
IB Times reports that Pakistan's Inspector General, Aftab Cheema, was "mysteriously removed" from his position after he declined to use force against the PTI and PAT protesters.
Sharif has so far rejected the calls to step down.