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Lawmakers of Imran's Party Quit But Offer Resumption of Talks

In a two-pronged strategy, 34 lawmakers of Imran Khan's party today resigned to step up pressure on the Nawaz Sharif government but followed up with an offer to resume talks after the failed first round.

For the second time since it mobilised thousands of supporters for anti-government protests in Islamabad demanding Sharif's resignation, the core committee of Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) met and discussed the current crisis.

The meeting took place after senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi handed over the resignations, including that of Khan, to Secretary of the National Assembly Muhammad Riaz, mounting more pressure on the beleaguered government.

The resignations do not affect the stability of the government which enjoys a majority with ruling PML-N having 190 members in a House of 342. Khan's PTI is the third largest party in the National Assembly.

Following the core committee meeting, Qureshi told reporters that "PTI is ready for talks."

After one round of talks on Wednesday both Khan's PTI and cleric Tahirul Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) had suspended dialogue with the government.

Till now, Khan has been insisting that talks can take place only after Sharif, who has been in power for over 15 months, resigns.

The anti-government protests in Pakistan are in their second week with thousands of supporters of PTI chief Khan and firebrand cleric Qadri camping outside the Parliament building here.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said containers in place for security reasons in the capital will not be removed, rejecting the demand of protesters.

"Protesters are not permitted and will not be permitted to go beyond containers. The containers will not be removed at any cost," he said. The minister confirmed that PTI had agreed to talks.

After PTI's core committee meeting, television channels quoted PTI leader Naeemul Haq as saying that it was possible that the Prime Minister could depart on a long leave until a probe into electoral rigging is completed.

Haq said that the core committee discussed matters in detail with legal advisers.

However, PTI's senior leader Arif Alvi soon denied that the party was willing to show flexibility in its demand for the Sharif's resignation.

Alvi said "another window of negotiations" had now opened and that the government should seize the opportunity otherwise the impasse might linger on.

"The ball is in the government's court, and I urge the government to look into our demands seriously," Alvi said.

The two sides are expected to meet for talks later tonight, he said.

Though, PTI's 34 lawmakers in the National Assembly have resigned, only the Speaker is authorised to accept their resignation and will take a final decision on the en masse resignation on Monday when he returns from Lahore.

Meanwhile, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq told reporters in Faisalabad that things were looking brighter now and that there were chances that issues might be resolved through dialogue.

He urged National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq not to accept resignations of PTI MNAs.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, "It should be clear to them that Parliament will not dissolve and the prime minister will not resign."

Dialogue between protesters headed by Khan and Qadri and the government broke down yesterday.

The fragile dialogue between the government and protesters that had raised hopes of resolution of the political crisis made no headway yesterday as Qadri refused to meet the government's negotiating team while Khan suspended talks calling for Sharif's resignation.

Khan and Qadri have both alleged rigging in the polls last year and called for a re-election.

Meanwhile, Khan and Qadri today assured the Supreme Court that they will remain within the limits of the Constitution during their ongoing agitations.

A five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, is hearing a petition against their protests and had ordered them yesterday to file their response.

The lawyers of Khan's PTI and Qadri's PAT submitted their responses, assuring the court that their protesters will follow the law.

The anti-government protesters are camping outside the Parliament since Tuesday night when they entered the 'Red Zone' where important government buildings including the Parliament House, the Prime Minister House, the President House, the Supreme Court besides the embassies are housed.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution today favouring the supremacy of the Constitution and Parliament.

This came after the National Assembly yesterday unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the anti-government protesters' demand for Sharif's resignation and dissolution of the Parliament.

The army had earlier this week asked all stakeholders in the crisis to hold "meaningful" talks to end the crisis.

The army, which has so far been passive in the confrontation between the government and protesters, has a history of capturing power from democratically elected governments.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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