The political crisis in Pakistan deepened Monday as protesters stormed and briefly held the state-run television headquarters and the capital buzzed with talk about whether the army would step in to remove either Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or the demonstrators.
Parliament scheduled a joint session for Tuesday to discuss the demonstrations that have rocked Islamabad in recent days, posing the greatest threat yet faced by Sharif's government, which came to power in a May 2013 election.
"I will neither resign nor go on leave," Sharif insisted after meeting with the army chief and opposition parties in parliament.
The protests have been led by two political rivals of Sharif, former cricket star Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahirul Qadri. Earlier Monday, scores of supporters of the two stormed the state-run TV studios, forcing a suspension of transmission for about an hour.
As intrigue swirled through the capital, the head of Khan's own party charged that Khan was acting at the behest of the army in support of Qadri.
Although a spokesman for the party said the charge was "unfounded and unfortunate," it dominated television news channels, finally prompting the army to issue a statement refuting it.
"It is unfortunate that [the] army is dragged into such controversies," the statement said. "Integrity and unity of the army is its strength."
It was the second explanatory statement issued by the army Monday. Earlier, after Sharif met with the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, several TV channels reported that Sharif had asked him to resign. An army spokesman said through Twitter that the reports were baseless.