Confrontation between Pakistan government and the opposition escalated on Wednesday with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rejecting demands for his resignation and Imran Khan calling off the dialogue with his regime until he quits.
Addressing the Parliament for the first time on the ongoing political crisis, Sharif brushed aside the demand for his resignation saying the country has survived "difficult times" and the current political crisis too shall pass.
"We are not going to be diverted by these things. The journey for the supremacy of Constitution and law in Pakistan will continue with full determination and God willing there will not be any interruption in it," Sharif said.
On the other side, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Khan hardened his stand and called off the dialogue with the government saying that he will not be able to get justice as long as Sharif stays on as Prime Minister.
The hardening of stance came after the failed fifth round of talks even as the Supreme Court ordered the demonstrators to clear the Constitution Avenue by Thursday.
Political stalemate has continued for the last two weeks with Khan-led PTI and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) refusing to budge from their demand of the Prime Minister's resignation over allegations of rigging in last year's general election and killing of 14 PAT supporters in Lahore on June 17.
Wednesday’s developments came a day after Sharif and powerful Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif agreed on the need to "expeditiously" resolve the political deadlock amid fears of instability in the coup-prone country.
The talks between the PTI and the government ended in a stalemate with the sticking point being the protesters' demand of Prime Minister's resignation.
"There will be no negotiations with your (Sharif) team now. No resignation, no negotiations," Khan told a crowd of supporters outside the Parliament.
"Nawaz Sharif is buying time. If we let him stay, he will buy officials and media houses," Khan said.
"We offered concessions, we agreed for the Prime Minister to resign only for 30 days, but they know what would happen if they allow investigations to proceed," the cricketer-turned politician said.
"If you pull back, there will be no independent inquiry under Nawaz Sharif," Khan said. He claimed that the government offered to make him deputy prime minister.
Meanwhile, Qadri's 48-hour ultimatum to Sharif to step down expired on Wednesday. Qadri announced the deadline for the government to quit on Monday after talks with the government failed to make any headway.
Even as talks failed, media reports said government has decided to hold direct negotiations with Khan and Qadri.
Punjab province Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif could resign until the investigations into the ModelTown tragedy is completed, Geo News reported quoting sources.
The judicial commission investigating the June 17 ModelTown incident, in which 14 of Qadri's supporters were killed, has held the government responsible for it and said police acted on government orders which led to the bloodshed.
The report said the affidavits of Chief Minister Shahbaz and former law minister Rana Sanaullah contained contradictions regarding the orders they reportedly issued to police to disengage, and declared that what happened on the ground did not match such claims.
As protesters continued to insist on their demands, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, gave the order for PTI and PAT protesters to clear the Constitution Avenue, including a road in front of the apex court and the Parliament.
The order was given during the hearing of identical petitions filed by bar associations across the country against the PAT and PTI sit-ins.
According to petitioners, protesters are breaching the rights of the common citizen which ensure freedom of movement and right of assembly.
Sharif has remained defiant in the face of protests by thousands of supporters of Khan and Qadri camping outside the Parliament demanding his resignation and re-elections to be held.
"We have survived difficult times. In the 2008 elections, our hands were tied. But we campaigned and participated, we did not cry about rigging -- and it would have been a legitimate cry," Sharif said while addressing the National Assembly.
Sharif said his PML-N for five years worked with the Pakistan People's Party government and supported it to complete its term.
"I visited him (Imran Khan) in the hospital when he was injured and he congratulated me on winning the polls and said he will play the role of a constructive opposition," Sharif told the House.
"Imran's claims were published in the papers as well," he said, adding that PTI had reservations but accepted the results of the elections.
Days after its lawmakers resigned from the National Assembly, PTI's Punjab Assembly members on Wednesday submitted their resignations, stepping up pressure on the embattled government.
Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly and PTI member Mehmoodur Rashid and 28 other party members handed their resignations from the house in the Punjab Assembly Secretariat.