After weeks of turmoil, the political storm that has engulfed Pakistan seemed to be ebbing on Wednesday as protesters returned to talks with the government and a mediator between the two warring sides said a "concrete solution" is in sight.
The positive development came after a war of words in the Parliament between lawmakers of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI), who had quit but their resignations have not been accepted by the Speaker, and pro-government leaders.
In a significant development, an opposition 'jirga', a committee of opposition politicians led by Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, held talks with the PTI leadership this evening.
Both Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) agreed late last night to talk to the opposition 'jirga' that is mediating between the embattled Nawaz Sharif-led government and the protesters who have been demanding the Prime Minister's resignation over alleged vote rigging in last year's general election.
Speaking to reporters after meeting the jirga which included Haq and Pakistan People's Party leader Rehman Malik, senior PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his party is ready to move ahead.
"PTI has agreed to move forward in a democratic manner," he said.
In the joint media briefing, Haq said, "It has been a productive meeting. There is still a deadlock, but 70 per cent of the work has been done. We believe there will be a concrete solution soon."
"I would like to advise the government to refrain from issuing statements, which spread negativity. If both sides show patience, then we are not far in ending this crisis," he said.
Malik said, "PTI showed maturity and didn't say anything negative. I request the Prime Minister's team not to talk about any individual. We have also requested the PAT committee to resolve the issue through dialogue."
"Everyone wants a peaceful solution. I believe that in the next 24 or 48 hours, things will normalise," he said.
Earlier in the day, 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.
Heated exchanges between opposing camps that have regularly figured in the political discourse during the three-week impasse on Wednesday moved inside the Parliament. Impassioned speeches continued to be made in the Parliament with PTI leader 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. 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.
Speaking after PTI lawmakers walked out following Qureshi's speech, Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah said, "Nawaz is truly Sharif in more than name. I am grateful that the prime minister agreed to call the joint session on my advice.
Parliament had to battle it out which it did by passing the joint resolution that the prime minister will not resign." "It's a victory of the House that a leader of the PTI came and said that his party is not involved in an underhanded conspiracy against Parliament," Shah said.
"Tahir-ul-Qadri does not accept the Constitution, doesn't accept democracy. PAT is not a political party. It has nefarious designs," he said. The session of the Parliament was adjourned till tomorrow morning.
Sharif was present in the Parliament earlier in the day but left the House as Qureshi started his speech. He later came back after PTI lawmakers had left the Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed leaders of political parties to submit their suggestions by tomorrow to end the ongoing political stalemate during the hearing of a plea against sit-ins and extra-constitutional steps in Islamabad by the PTI and PAT.
Earlier, the apex court had issued notices to all parliamentary parties as requested by Zulfiqar Naqvi who had petitioned that all parties be summoned so that the deadlock can be resolved.
In the last few days following the breakdown of talks between the government and protesters, protests had morphed the high-security Red Zone from a concert ground to a bloody battlefield, with three people killed and over 550 injured. A total of nine cases have been registered against leaders and activists of PTI and PAT since Monday.
The charges include sedition, murder attempt and terrorism. More than 200 activists have already been arrested in Islamabad since Sunday night, media reports said.
Khan and Qadri have been booked under the anti-terrorist act for attempting to attack the Parliament.
Khan wants the PML-N government's ouster over alleged rigging in last year's poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country. Both the leaders are agitating since August 14.