Govt-protesters talks make headway

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Breakthrough likely in next round of talks; Ahsan defers operation for 24 hours
Staff Reporter

Islamabad

The first round of talks between the protesters and the government ended on Saturday in which the latter hinted at withdrawing cases against the leaders of demonstrators which was considered a major development to end the sit-in.
These talks were held at PML-N leader Raja Zafar-ul-Haq’s residence. The government side signalled that it was willing to withdraw over a dozen cases registered against the protest leaders.
According to a private news channel, after the first round of talks protesters said negotiations with representatives of the Faizabad Interchange sit-in came to a standstill as the protesters said that they would negotiate when Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigns.
The protesters have also said that they will inform the government of their demands once Hamid resigns from his post, dashing hopes for the resolution of the issue after the first round of talks.
During the irst round of talks, sources say, the government officials proposed to formulate a committee with regard to Law Minister Zahid Hamid and representatives of the protesters were expected to respond to the offer during the night.
The government’s side was represented by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of State for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah and Zafaul Haq. Both sides are willing to sign a written agreement after consulting their respected sides for further review.
During the talks, both the sides presented their point of view and the sit-in committee had sought time from the government for further consultation with Majlis-e-Shura. Sources added that a breakthrough is likely in next round of talks.
Sources said that the sit-in committee had shown flexibility and both the sides had reached a consensus over a written agreement.
The team of protesters was headed by Pir Afzal Qadri.The participants of the talks included Pir Golra Sharif, Pir Ijaz Sherani, Dr Shafiq Amin, Sheikh Azhar Hussain and renowned businessman Rafiq Pardesi.
The protesters belong to various ‘religious’ parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan, and have been 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 – which had earlier been deemed a ‘clerical error’.
The custodian of Golra Sharif, Alauddin Nizami, had also met the protestors.
The government is reported to have made efforts throughout the night to convince leaders of the newly formed religious party to call off sit-in peacefully, but all in vain.
As the earlier deadline to end the sit-in expired, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal postponed a planned operation against protesters by another 24 hours.
In a bid to persuade the protesters blocking Faizabad Interchange to end their sit-in peacefully, he had appealed clerics and leaders to help the government resolve the issue.
All educational institutions and commercial activities remained suspended in the area on suspicion of an expected crackdown on the protesters. “We do not want any bloodshed in the name of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),” said the interior minister.
He urged the protesters to end their blockade of Faizabad Interchange as their demands have already been met.
Islamabad administration had told the protesting parties on Friday to end their sit-in by Saturday morning (10am) or face a joint operation by Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and police to disperse them.
The minister’s orders to allow the protestors more time to disperse before taking action came shortly after a heavy contingent of Islamabad Police, Frontier Corps and Rangers personnel – equipped with tear gas and shell guns – arrived at the Faizabad Interchange early on Saturday morning. The decision to defer the operation was made after talks were held with the protestors. The district administration was not included in the talks between the government and the participants.
The minister said that he wants the protest to end peacefully and without any issue, but added that implementation on the court order to disperse the protesters will be started after 24 hours.
Residents of the twin-city continue to face immense issues as mobility remains limited. Police sources said that the city administration has asked citizens at Murree Road to move to secure locations and directed shop owners to keep the shops closed.
Residents of I-8 and Faizabad were asked to remain in their homes while the city administration has declared emergency in hospitals
The administration has also closed all routes towards Islamabad for unnecessary traffic.
The IHC on Friday took notice of the non-implementation of its earlier orders that directed the protest at Faizabad Interchange to be dislodged.
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.

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