Islamabad Sit-in Enters its 17th Day Despite Court Notices

Protesters belonging to a religious group continued their sit-in for the 17th consecutive day on Wednesday, blocking Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad despite a notice by the Supreme Court.

The protest has resulted in severe issues for residents of the capital city and Rawalpindi, who face traffic jams and transportation issues on a daily basis. At least two casualties due to ambulances being unable to cross the protesters have also been reported.

The Supreme Court took notice of the sit-in on Tuesday and sought replies from the relevant government quarters. The apex court has sought a detailed report on what measures were taken by the government to safeguard the rights of the public and adjourned the hearing until Thursday.

In his remarks, Justice Qazi Faez Isa asked which Shariah (Islamic law) permits obstruction of people’s routes and use of foul language. There is a deadlock between government and the protesters as protest leaders continue to demand the resignation of Federal Minister for Law Zahid Hamid.

The government, however, has formed another committee under senior cleric Pir Haseenuddin Shah for negotiations with the protesters and to suggest a comprehensive solution to the problem.

On Tuesday, Shah asked the government for more authority so he could make decisions independently. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, meanwhile, has emphasised on a peaceful solution through talks while stressing that “all options are available” to disperse the sit-in. Following a meeting of government representatives and protest leaders on Monday, Iqbal again expressed hope for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

“We all agree that this issue should be resolved as soon as possible in a peaceful manner. Pakistan cannot be affected by any kind of bloodletting,” said the interior minister.

The meeting, after its conclusion also issued a joint statement, which stated that there is absolutely no room for error in the Khatam-e-Nabuwat clause and a committee, formed with PML-N leader Raja Zafar-ul-Haq in the chair, will identify those responsible for the mistake and the change in the oath.

The religious parties have been protesting against the change in the finality of Prophethood oath in the law when the government passed the Elections Act 2017 last month. The change, dubbed a clerical error by the government, was immediately fixed as an amendment was passed later.

The protestors also want responsibility fixed on other officials involved in the incident.

The religious group also began its protest in Karachi on November 19 at the Numaish Chowrangi, causing severe traffic jams in the Saddar area. The group had announced to take out a rally from Numaish Chowrangi to Tibet Centre but then proceeded to only hold a sit-in near Numaish and blocking roads leading to Saddar.

The protesters, however, moved away from the roads to the sidewalks early today, which led to hurdles placed by authorities to be removed. They said that the sit-in in the city will continue as long as the Islamabad protest continues.