ISLAMABAD: Life in the twin cities continues to be severely affected as protestors keep the Faizabad Interchange blocked for the tenth day.
Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said team under Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Raja Zafarul Haq has been nominated by the government to negotiate with the sit-in protestors.
The government on Tuesday invited representatives of the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah – protesting and staging a sit-in at Faizabad junction for the last eight days – for talks and made it clear that no Muslim could even think of any compromise on the issue of finality of the Prophet-hood (Khatme Nabuwwat), as a clash between the protesters and police officials left at least six law enforcers, including a station house officer (SHO), severely injured.
Just before midday, rumours began to circulate among the protestors that the police were planning a surprise operation against them. The rumour was triggered by the deployment of thousands of law enforcement officials, including Frontier Constabulary (FC), Special Branch, police officials and elite force, in and around Faizabad where the protest was underway.
Around 11 am, organisers of the rally made announcements that they were going to be attacked by police. On their call, the protestors armed with sticks and iron rods readied themselves for a clash and took positions to resist the assault.
As police officials also took a position in an indication that they wanted the protesters to lift their siege of the capital, a clash got underway in which SHO Qasim Khan and two other policemen were injured. Over two dozen protesters were also arrested as the police took advantage of the rainfall that forced the protesters to disperse.
In a joint presser later in the day, Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry and Minister for State for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Dr Tariq Chaudhry said the government wanted to end the sit-in peacefully through dialogue.
They categorically said that firm belief in Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as the last Messenger of Allah Almighty, is the fundamental part of Islamic faith, which was also an integral part of the Constitution.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal urged the protesters on Monday night to call off the sit-in, saying he hoped the government “wouldn’t be forced to take extreme steps”. The protesters reportedly detained several policemen, seized their weapons and mistreated them. “The abduction of the police is a heinous crime,” Iqbal said in a statement. Police also accused the protesters of throwing stones at them.
Separately, Federal Minister of Religious Affairs Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, while addressing a joint press conference with Minister of State for Interior Affairs Tallal Chaudry, reiterated that the government firmly believes in the finality of Prophet-hood.
Roughly 2,000 protesters are demanding the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid over an amendment to the Prophet-hood Declaration Clause in the Electoral Reforms Bill, 2017.
According to the Islamabad Police chief, the protesters deliberately tried to escalate tension so that a clash with police could become inevitable. The protesters, on the other hand, said they would defend themselves if the police conducted an operation against them.
Thousands of people use the interchange to commute every day to work in the capital. Last week, an eight-month-old child died on his way to the hospital after being stuck in traffic because of the TLY’s blockade.
The protesters have erected tents on the greenbelt and deputed their own ‘security’ personnel who frisk pedestrians and motorbike riders.
They have also been controlling traffic for hundreds of meters around their protest camp, parking buses at several locations on Islamabad Highway and removing nearby police checkposts.
As a result, all major roads including Seventh Avenue on Kashmir Highway, Islamabad Expressway, Murree Road and IJP Principal Road have been completely closed for traffic. Due to diversions, the alternative roads are also clogged including Kashmir Highway, Club Road, Taramri Chowk and other arteries.
Life for the residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi has been at a standstill for the past one week due to the sit-in. Thoroughly exasperated by the situation, the citizens have urged the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter.