Pakistan's government sought to defuse a growing political crisis Friday, offering to talk with opposition leaders on the third day of a crackdown on anti-government protests.
Government sources say consultations were underway to try and reach a compromise with activists led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The activists are demanding that President Asif Ali Zardari reinstate the former Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who was ousted by former President Pervez Musharraf. The government's offer for negotiations follows several meetings with top political and military leaders Friday, as well as consultations with top American diplomats.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials widened the ban on protests and rounded up dozens of activists, ahead of a mass anti-government sit-in at the parliament set for Monday in the capital, Islamabad. Public gatherings were blocked in North West Frontier Province on Friday, similar to earlier bans imposed on central Punjab and southern Sindh provinces.