Faizabad sit-in by religious parties continues in third week, people upset, govt, agencies and supreme judiciary failed sofar, army waiting for orders
ISLAMABAD: The capital and twin cities of Pakistan, Rawalpindi and Islamabad are under seize and completely paralysed for the last three weeks due to sit-in organised by religious parties to meet their demand of resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction at the reports submitted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with regards to the Faizabad sit-in in Islamabad, which is now in its third week. Daily life in the capital has been disrupted by protesters belonging to religious parties — including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) — who are calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-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 Bridge which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad through the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road, both of which are the busiest roads in the twin cities. The Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) deadline for the government to remove the protesters expires today.
As the two member bench—headed my Justice Musheer Alam — started hearing the case on Thursday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that the authorities need to tell the court who is funding the sit-in and if there is any indication of foreign involvement in the matter.
The bench also came down hard on the federal governmentfor itsfailure to resolve thematter.The SC received reports from the federal and Punjab government on the sit-in, which has become a cause of concern for residents and commuters.
In his report, the attorney general ofIslamabad told the court that that the government is erring on the side of caution because there is a risk of confrontation if action is taken against the protesters, as some protesters are also armed. Replying to the attorney general’s remarks, Justice Alam said, “Tomorrow, if an enemy of the state chooses to occupy the streets of the capital will the government try to negotiate with them?” Trying to clarify the government’s position, the attorney general said that the government had sent the SC’s order regarding the dispersal of the participants to the leaders of the protest. Enraged by thisreply, Justice Alam said, “What do you mean, will the protesters now decide if the sit-in will end or not? No one is paying attention to the main point: all the reports reflect that the Punjab government had prior information regarding a possible sitin and no measures were taken to stop it,” Justice Alam said. Disconcerted by the government’s inaction, Justice Isa said that if the situation is not taken under control, the country’s decisions will be taken on the streets rather than in courts.
Speaking about the protesters Justice Qazi said that the kind of language being used by the leaders of the sit-in is not reflective of Islam.
He added: “Why is the media giving the sit-in so much coverage, where is Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority?” “Who is paying for the sit-in, who is providing the protesters food and electricity,” Justice Qazi said while asking that the IB and ISI satisfy the court by filing the missing details in the confidential report.
The court adjourned the hearing of the case for a week. During a previous hearing of the case, Justice Isa had said that Article 15 of the Constitution allows freedom of movement to the public. He had asked government authorities to explain what steps have been taken to protect public’s basic rights. The court had also issued notices to the inspectors-general of Islamabad and Punjab, the attorney general and advocate generals of Islamabad and Punjab, seeking their replies on the matter by November 23. The government is under mounting pressure to end the Faizabad protest.
The IH Con Monday initiated contempt proceedings against top officials of the Islamabad administration by issuing them show-cause notices. Army waiting for decision Weighing in for the first time on the sit-in that has all but paralysed the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for over two weeks, the military’s spokesperson said it would abide by the government’s decision on the matter. In remarks released to the media on Wednesday night, Inter Services Public Relations chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that while it would be preferable to address the situation through peaceful means, the military would abide by whatever decision the government took. Saying that the civil and military leaderships were on the same page when it came to the country’s security, he said that the army was duty-bound to carry out the government’s instructions.
The Pakistan Army is in favour of peaceful dialogue for putting an end to the protracted Faizabad Interchange sit-in, said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major GenAsif Ghafoor Bajwa on Wednesday amid calls by the opposition for army’sintervention. However, it wasthe government’s prerogative what line of action it wanted to take on the issue, said the army’s media wing chief, while talking to a private news channel. Maj Gen Ghafoor’s statement came following the suggestion of army’s intervention to settle the dispute by opposition leaderin National Assembly Khurshid Shah. He said it was the government’s constitutional right to call the army when in need. Expressing the Pakistan Army’s commitment to upholding the constitution, the major general said the armed forces would not let anarchy prevail in the country, adding that the Pakistan Army had always worked for the welfare of the country and it would continue to do so.
The ISPR spokesperson said the army discouraged institutional conflicts as it made the country wake; however, state’s safety “outweighs all institutions”. Meanwhile, a major breakthrough is expected anytime as officials have reported positive progressin talks between the government and protesters to end the blockade of Faizabad Interchange. PPPfor military help The military spokesperson’s remarks came after Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah advised the government to seek assistance from the armed forces to end the sit-in that was causing great inconvenience to the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. “As many as two million people have been held hostage by these protesters.
The government should use its constitutional powers to seek assistance from the armed forces of Pakistan [to end the sit-in],” Mr Shah said in a statement issued on Wednesday. But despite two rounds of meetings, the government could not make any breakthrough in the deadlock with religious parties who are staging a sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange. Arrests for manhandling Police arrested 42 protesters who attacked and injured policemen as well as members of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) late last night. At least 12 policemen, including a superintendent, and FC personnel were injured last night by means ofstone pelting. The officials were also beaten by sticks and iron rods. Protesters also beat up two photojournalists and tried to snatch their cameras as they were trying to capture images of the attack on police.
The police registered a case against the leaders and participants of the sit-in. A total of 19 cases have been registered against the protesters up till now. Threats to families The leaders of the religious parties staging a sit-in outside the capital on Friday threatened to attack the families of federal ministersiftheir demands were not met. Religious groups – led by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Yah Rasool Allah Pakistan and Sunni Tehreek Pakistan – have been at the Faizabad Interchange forthree straight days now, bringing the cities to a standstill.
The threats were made in the Friday sermon, delivered by Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat leader Pir Afzal Qadri. The sit-in leaders had already announced plans to hold Friday prayers at Faizabad and a sizeable number had gathered there for the congregation. Police officials told Dawn that according to theirinformation, the cleric threatened ministers’ families,saying: “[they]should be very careful because our supporters can harm their children.” In the sermon he threatened the occupation of all railway stations and airports in the country, saying that all major roads would be blocked by their supporters. The cleric called on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to negotiate with them, but only afterremoving Law Minister Zahid Hamid from his position. “We will not back down from our demands and we are willing to die for the cause of Khatam-i-Nabuwat,” Qadri said.