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Govt failed to end religious sit-in

21 November, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The government and representatives of the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah agreed on Monday to form a committee headed by Pir Haseenuddin Shah to end the two-week-long protest at Faizabad Interchange.

Despite talks between the two sides for the second consecutive day at the Punjab House, a deadlock persists between the authorities and protesters over the blockade.

Protesters are continuing to demand the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

According to them, Hamid is responsible for the hastily abandoned amendment to the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause in Elections Act, 2017.

Following the meeting, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousuf, while reading out a joint communique of the meeting, announced that the committee headed by Shah and comprising scholars of different schools of thought would come up with a solution to the problem.

It was also decided that the recommendation made by the Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee to find the real culprit behind the ‘gaffe’ in electoral reforms law would be made public.

Talking to reporters, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said they wanted the protesters to disperse peacefully. “The government does not want to take any decision in a haste,” he said. “Whoever is responsible for the faux pas will be brought to the fore.”

Ahsan Iqbal announced an extension granted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the deadline for religious parties to end their sit-in.

Daily life in the capital has been disrupted for nearly two weeks by protesters belonging to religious parties – Tehreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek (ST) — who are calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act, 2017. The amendment had earlier been deemed a ‘clerical error’ and has already been rectified.

The protesters had occupied the Faizabad Interchange, which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad through the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road, both of which are the busiest roads in the twin cities.

The deadline for ending the sit-in is now November 23, Ahsan Iqbal said, addressing a press conference after a court hearing on the matter on Monday.

“We will implement the court’s order,” Iqbal asserted, referring to an earlier order issued by the IHC to the capital administration on Friday to get the area cleared by Saturday using “any means necessary” and with the help of the Frontier Constabulary and Rangers, if needed.

“The Islamabad administration did not conduct an operation against the protesters on my orders, because I do not wish for any unrest. I asked for an extension in the deadline so that we can find a solution,” he added.

“We are in talks with religious leaders and I believe we will convince the protesters to end their sit-in,” he said. “I am sure that in 24 hours or so, we will find a solution; there will be a breakthrough.”

He recalled that the IHC had earlier observed that there was a designated area for people to register their protests in the capital ? the Democracy and Speech Corner. The IHC in a hearing last week had said that any citizen who wishes to exercise their right to freedom of speech must not cause inconvenience to other citizens.

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