Thousands of Islamist protesters camped outside the presidency in Islamabad for several days refused Wednesday to disperse, assuring be "ready to die" while the police were preparing to evacuate after the expiration of an ultimatum.
Protesters paralyzed for days Avenue of the Constitution leading to the main political institutions of the country, and promised to stay until their demands are heard, the execution by hanging of Asia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy.
The tense standoff came after anti-Christian attack that left more than 70 dead in Lahore on Easter Sunday, illustrating the deep sectarian divisions in Pakistan, predominantly Muslim country.
The mobilization began Sunday in the nearby city of Rawalpindi by a gathering for up to 25,000 people in memory of Mumtaz Qadri, a hanged late February for Islamist assassinated in 2011 the Governor of Punjab because it supported a reform of the law controversial punishing blasphemy.
Several thousand protestors were then forced a passage with stones to the capital Sunday afternoon, before settling on Constitution Avenue, which runs alongside the Parliament, the Presidency and government offices Pakistani.
At midday, several thousand demonstrators were still on the roundabout opposite to the presidency, chanting religious slogans.
New negotiations are underway between authorities and representatives of the protesters.
"The negotiations could last until 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.. If they fail, we could evacuate the protesters around 18:00, "said a police officer on condition of anonymity.
The government had initially given until Tuesday evening the demonstrators to leave, but the ultimatum expired without effect, and the authorities have postponed until Wednesday.
According to the officer, over 4,000 members of the Pakistani security forces are on site, and more than 2,000 others ready to be deployed if the protesters do not cooperate with the authorities who accuse them of "blocking anti-terrorist efforts of the government" .
Soldiers are already deployed in front of government buildings close to the event.
"We will not leave the premises before our ten demands are met," said a leader of the protesters, Arshad Asif Jalali.
"Our fans are willing to die. If the government launches an operation, they will not take the flight but will face the bullets, "he assured.
Supporters of Qadri in particular claim that the executed Islamist to be erected to the rank of "martyr", hanging the Christian Asia Bibi, and the strict application of sharia, Islamic law.
Their demands have so far been rejected by the government.
The hanging of Qadri, described by experts of "turning point" in the fight against extremism in Pakistan, has become a point of contention between the government and the most radical fringes of this conservative country.
His funeral late February had collected tens of thousands of people, a demonstration of strength extremists who had worried the moderates.
The call for the hanging of Asia Bibi, coinciding with the Easter attack in Lahore, has reinforced the sense of insecurity of minorities in Pakistan.
"It's a feeling of great sorrow, sadness and fear," says Shamoon Gill, spokesman of a minority advocacy organization.
The attack in Lahore park gives Christians the impression that "no place is safe" for them, while the crowd gathered in Islamabad is "dangerous", he said.
"They are a serious threat to the life of Asia Bibi (...) it is possible that the government gives in to their pressure on this point," he warned.
This Christian mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 after a trivial argument with Muslim neighbors, became a symbol of the debate on the blasphemy law, a highly sensitive subject.
His case has shocked many Western leaders, including Pope Francis.
A total of 17 convicted of blasphemy are currently in death row - but so far no one has been executed.