ISLAMABAD - The standoff between the government and PTI and PAT negotiators persisted when they after a day’s hiatus resumed talks late Friday with renewed hope to bring to end the political storm wherein protesters are demanding resignation of the prime minister and fresh elections in the country.

Government’s five-member team, headed by Punjab Governor Ch Ghulam Sarwar and PTI’s team leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi discussed list of PTI’s demands. Both sides adjourned talks until Saturday (today) with PTI team sticking to its prime demand of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.

Talking to media persons after the talks, which lasted for about 30 minutes, PTI chief negotiator Shah Mehmood Qureshi said both sides listened to each other’s stand points and decided to resume talks Saturday. Both sides, he said, agreed to look into the points of view of each other and would meet for third session today (Saturday).

It was learnt that the government team maintained that PTI should withdraw its demand of prime minister’s resignation as it was unconstitutional, while the PTI team stuck to it leaving the talks inconclusive.

Sources said the government team, which includes four federal ministers, insisted that the government was sincere to consider PTI’s demands that fall within the ambit of constitution. But PTI team remained adamant and pressed for fulfilling all of their six-point charter of demands.

Meanwhile, another four-member government nominated committee headed by federal minister Ahsan Iqbal also resumed talks with PAT’s committee. It was learnt that the PAT team also reiterated their demands that included resignation of Prime Minister Sharif and dissolution of the assemblies.

The government committee, headed by MQM central leader Haider Abbas Rizvi, presented government’s point of view about PAT demands but the PAT team also did not budge from its position till filing of this report.

Former cricketer Imran Khan and populist cleric Dr Tahirul Qadri have led thousands of supporters demonstrating outside parliament this week demanding resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, dissolution of assemblies and fresh elections after electoral reforms.

Khan insists the May 2013 general election, which swept Sharif to power in a landslide, was rigged, though observers rated it free and credible. He told his workers on Friday that he would not leave Islamabad without the resignation of the PM.

PAT Chairman Dr Qadri demands registration of FIR against 21 people including the prime minister and his younger brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, for their alleged involvement in killing of 14 PAT workers in Model Town locality of Lahore on June 17. Qadri said he would ascertain seriousness of the government towards the PAT demands.

Ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) insists Prime Minister Sharif will not quit and accuse the protesters of undermining the country’s fragile democracy.

In a related development, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Friday spoke with former President and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and invited him for a luncheon meeting in Lahore today (Saturday) to discuss the situation.

AFP adds: Qadri and Khan’s protest movements are not formally allied and have different goals, beyond toppling the government. But their combined pressure - and numbers - have given extra heft to the rallies.

If one group were to reach a settlement with the government and withdraw, the other’s position would be significantly weakened.

Neither movement has mobilised mass support beyond their core followers and opposition parties have shunned Khan’s call to unseat the government and begin a campaign of civil disobedience.

Maulana Fazalur Rehman, chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) said the protests had no support from the majority of Pakistan’s 180 million population.

“They have been isolated and people of Pakistan have rejected them - there are maximum 5,000 to 6,000 people combined with them at night,” he told AFP.

Despite rumours that the military had some hand in the protests, Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, a PML-N stalwart, insisted there was “no pressure on us from any state institution to resign.”

“It is the imagination of some lawless and outside elements camping out there,” he told AFP.

But if a full-blown coup d’etat looks unlikely - such a move could jeopardise billions of dollars in foreign assistance and trade deals - analysts say the crisis will leave Sharif weakened.

“The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the backdoor,” the International Crisis Group wrote.