Ahsan Iqbal hopeful of resolving Islamabad sit-in within 24-48 hours

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ISLAMABAD: After appearing before the Islamabad High Court for non-implementation of the court’s order to clear the Faizabad sit-in on Monday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved in the next 24-48 hours.

Addressing the media after the hearing, Iqbal said once more that the government wants to avoid taking action for fear of bloodshed saying that international conspiracies have been hatched to destabilize Pakistan.

Ahsan Iqbal announced an extension granted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the deadline for the eviction of a religious parties’ sit-in from Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange.

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

The deputy commissioner had earlier told the court the number of protesters is around 2,000, and they are in possession of some 10-12 weapons.

“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,” Ahsan 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 added that the IHC had earlier observed that there is 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 inconvenience other citizens.

“They [the court] have given a judgement on this, and we have decided that in the future, no one will be allowed to hold a sit-in. The administration will be given strict orders not to allow a situation like this to develop in the future,” he added.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui questioned why the court’s earlier order to the administration to evict protesters from the Interchange by Saturday had not been acted upon, and summoned Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to appear before the court.

He asked the officials present in court ? the Islamabad inspector general, chief commissioner and deputy commissioner ? to provide an explanation for the lack of action against protesters.

The dragging on of the protest “is the result of the administration’s complicity and incompetence”, Justice Siddiqui said.

The deputy attorney general asked for a closed hearing as “some things cannot be said in an open court”. The judge, however, rejected the request, asking the lawyer to say whatever must be said openly and “take the nation into confidence”.

The deputy attorney general told the court that talks between officials and the protesters are ongoing.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal informed the court that some religious scholars were engaged in negotations with the protesters.

However, Justice Siddiqui was not satisfied with Iqbal’s response and warned of contempt proceedings against the minister for not following court orders. “The court is not being respected,” he said.

Justice Siddiqui said that the religious party leading the protest also participated in the elections and, therefore, should be treated as a political party.

Iqbal agreed with the court’s observation and said that the goverment feared that the protest was a part of preparations for 2018 General Elections. He said that the protesters were informed of the court decision and requested the court to give the government 48 hours to deal with the situation.

The court, however, said that the government should use its own authority rather than the court’s to deal with the situation. Despite its reservations over the previous court order not being implemented, it extended the deadline for the protesters to be removed until November 23.

“The court has no interest in who is sitting in protest,” Justice Siddiqui said, adding that the court had given a detailed verdict when Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had warned of a lockdown of the capital. He also provided the interior minister with a copy of the judgement on PTI lockdown, asking him to review the decision as it had detailed instructions and was prepared with great effort.

The interior minister said that certain elements wanted to create anarchy and the government was trying to defeat a conspiracy.

At this Justice Siddiqui asked whether there was an internal power struggle within the executive and certain departments were not accepting the government’s decisions.

Iqbal denied any infighting and assured the court that the roads will soon open following negotiations.

Orignally published by INP

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