ISLAMABAD: After the Faizabad Interchange protesters’ defiance of the government’s second deadline, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday again appealed to the protesters to end their dharna saying that no government can ever compromise on the Khatm-e-Nabuwat’s belief and the parliament has always upheld it.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Ahsan Iqbal reiterated the government’s desire to end the deadlock through dialogue rather than by means of force, urging the protesters to end their sit-in as the sacred issue is being abused for political purposes.
“People want to make this issue a political launchpad. But paving way for violence through such protest is unacceptable,” he said.
Stressing that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s teachings called for a tolerant society, he said that the Tehreek Labiak’s protest was contrary to that.
“Prophet’s teachings are of tolerance instead of calling names to others from a stage. This is not consistent with Islam’s teachings,” he said.
Responding to protesters’ demand of removing Law Minister Zahid Hamid, the interior minister reiterated that he would not be removed from the office.
“How can we remove the law minister? If we start doing this, every other day, people will make similar demands,” he said, adding that so far the government has dealt with the matter rather patiently.
He implored the protesters and their leadership to agree to the government set-up committee consisting of Islamic scholars who are also asking the Tehreek Labbaik to end the protest.
Iqbal reiterated that compliance with the IHC order to remove the protesters by Sunday was a legal requirement, but added that he had requested the court, especially for an extension in the deadline in order to reach a peaceful resolution to the deadlock.
“We agreed to the suggestions they had, and I hope the protesters and their representatives will also reach an agreement so the issue can be resolved and people’s lives can return to normal. If all reservations have been dispelled and the law has been reversed, there is no more justification for the sit-in,” he said.
“The pressure on us is increasing, and the court has also given us an order [to end the sit-in],” he said. “The government does not want any clashes.”
People’s daily lives, children’s academics and businesses have all been affected by the 14-day long protest, Iqbal said.
He said that protesters should congratulate the government for the historic work of restoring a law that had lapsed in 2002 and now, the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat issue had been settled once and for all.
On Saturday, leaders of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) had refused to end their sit-in at Faizabad Interchange in the federal capital unless the government accepted their demand.
The protesters are demanding the removal of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, blasphemy convict Asiya Bibi’s execution, dismissal of cases against religious leaders, and the removal of various extremist clerics’ names from the Fourth Schedule.
The protesters made it clear to the government that it was either Zahid Hamid, or “their heads” — there was no other way around it.
The federal government in search of a non-violent solution had appealed the leading clerics of the country to play their role to end the blockade of Islamabad.
Earlier on Saturday, Ahsan Iqbal had announced that the administration had decided to postpone a planned operation against the protesters by another 24 hours in a bid to resolve the situation peacefully.
The IHC on Friday took notice of the non-implementation of its earlier orders that directed the protest at Faizabad Interchange to be dislodged.
Acting upon the court-set deadline, the district administration had set a 10PM target on Friday for protesters to end the sit-in, which was ignored.
“Protesters have not taken the court orders seriously,” Justice Siddiqui had remarked during the court proceedings, adding that the district administration has failed to use its powers.
“Freedom of expression does not mean that the rights of other citizens are usurped,” he added.
Justice Siddiqui maintained that the administration failed to play its due role in resolving the crisis and merely watched the spectacle unfold as a ‘cricket spectator’.
The Senate on Friday passed the Elections Amendment Bill 2017, related to Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clauses for voters, after the National Assembly (NA) did the same on Thursday.