Islamabad protest: Ahsan Iqbal requests court for more time in hope of good news

Negotiations with the representatives of the Faizabad Interchange sit-in are still underway, Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal told media late Saturday night, adding that the people of Pakistan can expect “good news” in a day.
The talks had come to a standstill earlier in the evening after protesters noted that they will negotiate only after Minister of Law Zahid Hamid resigns.
The demonstrators 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.
“This is not a political demonstration; this revolves around religious sentiments,” Iqbal commented, indicating that the country cannot afford any kind of crisis at the moment.
Noting how a patient succumbed to their injuries earlier during the day due to the roads being closed off, the interior minister highlighted that he understands the difficulties the citizens are facing at present and how it is consequently bumping up the pressure.
The government is making a “pure effort” in this regard, in “all seriousness and with passion” so that the issue may be resolved in an amicable manner.
“The talks [with the protestors] are currently underway and, therefore, we hope to announce good news in a day.”
Iqbal went on to underline that the Eid Milad-un-Nabi (SAW) is to be observed in a few days and that Pakistanis want to celebrate that happy moment with full reverence.
“We are all Muslims, we all follow Allah and Rasul Allah [Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)],” he said.
Hopes for peaceful resolution
Reiterating his statement from earlier in the day — “The protesters no longer need to protest as we have given them a bigger law than they asked for” — Iqbal termed the restoration of the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) clause “a big feat compared to 1974”.
The Senate on Friday passed the Elections Amendment Bill, 2017 — related to the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) clauses for voters — after the National Assembly (NA) did the same on Thursday.
The law, which “died back in 2002″, Iqbal explained, “has now been assigned a permanent place in Pakistan’s Constitution”.
Nevertheless, he requested the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to provide at least another day or two since there is hope for a way out of the strenuous predicament without any untoward event.
The situation is considerably more sensitive given the external threats and those of terrorism, which is why the interior minister said the government is trying to make every effort to resolve the issue in a peaceful manner through debate and negotiation.
Iqbal noted that the ulema have stepped forward to resolve the issue and expressed their readiness to play a role in establishing peace.
They “have made suggestions that may be acceptable”, he informed representatives of the media, conveying his hope that the protestors are ready to cooperate now — having seen and understood the situation.
“We hope the sit-in concludes on a good note and with good wishes.”
Zahid Hamid and the resignation
With regard to the only demand the demonstrators have put forward as of now, Iqbal said Hamid cannot be asked to resign until proven guilty, emphasising on how the latter had issued a statement on believing in Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood).
“This is an issue of faith, no one can be held guilty,” the interior minister stated, adding that the government desires to avoid any kind of conflict or tense situation.
24 more hours
The first round of talks — held at PML-N leader Raja Zafar-ul-Haq’s residence with representatives of the sit-in earlier today — ended with the government signalling that it was willing to withdraw over a dozen cases registered against the protest leaders.
As per sources, government officials had proposed to create a committee in regards to the law minister.
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 Haq.
Earlier today, Iqbal ordered the city administration to give protesters blocking the Faizabad Interchange 24 more hours to end the sit-in which has paralysed the city for over 10 days.
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.
Iqbal had also called upon religious leaders and scholars to play their role in helping end the stalemate.
The custodian of Golra Sharif, Alauddin Nizami, had also met the protestors. Chairman Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, while addressing the media, said the issue of the sit-in should be resolved peacefully. He added that the sit-in does not benefit any person and the protesters should adopt a middle route to end the current stalemate.
Government representatives had held talks throughout Friday night which failed to produce any results, Iqbal said.
As per an order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued yesterday, protesters staging a sit-in at the interchange had until 10 AM today (Saturday) to vacate the key route.
Iqbal’s order comes after contingents of the police and FC arrived early morning and were gearing up to disperse demonstrators should they fail to meet the court ordered-deadline.
Life comes to a standstill
Residents of the capital 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 have been asked to remain in their homes while the city administration has declared an 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.
Acting upon the court-set deadline, the district administration had set a 10 PM target on Friday for protesters to end the sit-in, which, as it turns out, 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.