Pakistan's parliament on Wednesday became the new battleground in the ongoing political turmoil with pro-government leaders and lawmakers of Imran Khan's party accusing each other of undermining democracy, even as protesters returned to the negotiating table.
The political impasse in Pakistan continued unabated with a largely united parliament on one side, and the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek on the other.
A joint session of Parliament saw all parties except PTI put aside their differences to stand against what they termed were attempts to derail the democratic process in the country prone to coups.
In a significant development, Khan and Qadri agreed to talk to a committee of opposition politicians seeking to mediate between the embattled Nawaz Sharif-led government and the protesters.
A delegation of opposition parties met Khan and Qadri overnight to end the impasse. The lawmakers led by Sirajul Haq, chief of right wing Jamaat-i-Islami, first met with Khan and then Qadri and offered them guarantee of Parliament for implementation of any deal reached to end the crisis that has triggered violence.
"The PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf) accepted our request (of talks) with open heart and we are thankful to them," Haq was quoted by Dawn as saying after the meeting.
He said the journey of dialogue process would continue until a logical conclusion was reached. Heated exchanges between opposing camps that have regularly figured in the political discourse during the three-week impasse today moved inside the parliament.
Lawmakers from the PTI, who had quit but their resignations have not been accepted by the Speaker, attended the emergency joint session of the Parliament convened to support the Premier and discuss the crisis.
Impassioned speeches continued to be made in the parliament with senior PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi leading the party's reply to countless accusations made by pro-government leaders.
"We are protesting to save the Parliament, not to destroy it. The PTI never was and never will be part of a grand plan that will undermine democracy," Qureshi said. "We are protesting on the directions of the Pakistani nation. I want to be on record; my party opposes the invoking of Article 245," he said in reference to the ruling PML-N's deployment of army in Islamabad.
Sharif was present in the parliament earlier in the day but left the House as Qureshi started his speech. "If you want the prime minister's resignation, forget about it...you won't get it and no prime minister will tender his resignation in this manner," Qaumi Watan Party's Aftab Khan Sherpao said.