Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the powerful Army Chief today agreed on the need to "expeditiously" end the political deadlock that has raised fears of instability, as the embattled government stepped up back channel efforts to reach out to protesters.
The meeting between Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif came in the wake of protests here by thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul- Qadri, demanding the Prime Minister's resignation.
"Overall security environment including the prevailing situation was discussed in the meeting. There was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest," a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office said.
The government did not give further details about the meeting but the army has already asked the two sides to end the crisis through negotiations.
Political stalemate has continued for the last 13 days with Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and 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.
Back channel consultations were on to reach an amicable settlement.
"There has been a deadlock with the PTI and Qadri's PAT over one point -- Prime Minister Sharif's resignation. The government is ready to accept all other demands related to rigging and electoral reforms but both the protesting parties are sticking to their one major demand of the premier's resignation," Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar told PTI.
"I am tasked by the government to make a final attempt to convince Mr Khan to drop his demand of Prime Minister's resignation for the sake of democracy and the people of this country," the governor said, adding that Sharif was ready to meet Khan provided the latter was willing.
"They even want the Prime Minister's resignation for a month. How could a new premier be installed for a month as a stop-gap arrangement," he argued.
The protesters have not moved away from the Constitution Avenue despite Supreme Court's orders yesterday to clear the road by today to allow judges to reach court. The protesters, however, cleared one side of the avenue to let the judges go to court without any hindrance.
Former premier and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "Martial law cannot be ruled out in the present circumstances. The government should act now and avert crisis otherwise there is no guarantee that the democracy will continue here. I advise the PML-N government to do whatever it can to save democracy."