Ahsan says govt won’t surrender, rejects demands of Faizabad protesters

  • Interior minister says state machinery is capable enough to clear the area within three hours

  • Says activities of TLYR damaging image of Pakistan, supporting enemies’ stance

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the state was on one page regarding the ongoing sit-in at Faizabad Interchange by members of a religious party, adding that the government machinery was capable enough to clear the area of religious protesters within three hours if assured against the propagation of the sensitive issue.

Iqbal, reiterating the government’s stance on Thursday, said that efforts are underway to resolve the issue peacefully and avoid bloodshed.

Discussing the measures taken to resolve the crisis, the interior minister said multiple rounds of negotiations have taken place at various levels, but the protesters are not budging from their demand for Zahid Hamid’s resignation.

“The law minister will not resign due to the ego and stubbornness of certain people,” said the minister, adding that only the parliament can demand the law minister’s resignation.

He said the activities of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) protestors were damaging the image of the country and supporting the stance of Pakistan’s enemies, who portray it as an unstable state.

People are compelled to cross a nullah to reach their destinations as the roads remain blocked due to the sit-in protest of TLYR

“One option is a security operation, as the interior minister I can order an operation and clear the space in a matter of three hours,” said Iqbal.

He added that with an operation, there’s no guarantee that bloodshed will not happen and a repeat of Model Town or Lal Masjid will not occur.

“I am not the interior minister of Faizabad Interchange; I am the interior minister of Pakistan; hence have to take measures after looking at the situation across the country.”

The minister said there were reports about the presence of some miscreants among the protestors. The basic objective behind this long episode is to gain voters’ confidence as TLYR has already announced to contest the forthcoming elections, he added.

He said in NA-120 and NA-4 by-elections, this particular religious group was supported by the opposition parties. “The government does not have an option to surrender. We know more groups would stage sit-ins in case irrelevant demands of ‘dharna’ people are accepted.”

FC personnel deployed to launch an operation to end the sit-in protest of TLYR at Faizabad gather around a bonfire to keep themselves warm

Ahsan recalled that through legislation the law of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat has been strengthened even further, adding this is not a political dispute, and the government has already made the law stronger through legislation.

Earlier, addressing an inaugural ceremony of Centre for Rural Economy (CRE), Ahsan—who is also Minister for Planning, Development and Reform—said productivity, quality and innovation are the core conditions of competitiveness of an economy and drivers of economic growth and development.

He said the CRE would significantly contribute to a greater, greener and more sustainable type of growth.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court said that the writ of one man was prevailing and not the state’s.

The bench, comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mushir Alam, expressed its displeasure at the unrelenting situation and noted that the residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were facing serious problems as a result of the sit-in.

“When the writ of the state ends, decisions are made on streets,” Justice Isa remarked, adding without taking any names, “this dharna [sit-in] is all about one man’s ego and his quest to get fame.”

The Army said on Wednesday that it would act upon whatever decision the government makes on the ongoing sit-in in Islamabad.

ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, however, said it is better to diffuse the situation through mutual understanding, adding that whatever decision the government makes in this regard would be acted upon.

The Supreme Court had taken notice of the protests on Tuesday and had sought replies from the relevant government quarters. The apex court had also issued notices to Inspector General Islamabad Police and Attorney General.