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Despite the government’s all-out efforts to avert crackdown, the second deadline for protesters in the federal capital to call off their 13-day-long sit-in has ended with authorities to start contemplating the next line action.
On Saturday night, the leaderships of the protesters and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) held a meeting but the deadlock between the two parties remained unresolved.
The protesters are demanding resignation from Law Minister Zahid Hamid over allegedly amending the Khatm-e-Nabuwat clause in the Election Act 2017.
The protesters have been demanding the resignation and punishment of Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid for allegedly altering the declaration of the Finality of the Prophethood (pbuh) for lawmakers – a change which the government called a ‘clerical error’ and has already reversed.
“A strategy will be devised (in the meeting) to unite the nation over (the matter of) Khatm-e-Nabuwwat,” a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior said on Sunday.
Ulema from various schools of thoughts would attend the meeting and try to find an amicable solution to the protest of the religious group led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the statement added.
The focus of the grand meeting would be to tackle the situation arising out of the protest sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday said, “All options are available to disperse the protesters,” adding, “Launching a security operation is the last option because the government want to avoid bloodshed at all costs.”
Iqbal also urged the religious group protesting in Islamabad to obey the law of land and call off the sit-in as “the law regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwwat has been made more sound and effective”.
Addressing a news conference in the federal capital, he said, “No one can even think about compromising on the matter of the finality of the Prophethood (pbuh).”
Calling upon protesters once again to call off the sit-in, he expressed hope they would agree to the suggestions made by the religious personalities included in the talks, adding now he was conducting contempt of court by allowing the protest to continue in the federal capital.
At present, negotiations between a select group of religious leaders and the protesters are still under way and no solution had been found yet.
The minister, along with others, has been engaged in negotiations with the protesters, who have occupied the key Faizabad Interchange of the capital for nearly two weeks, but failed to reach a breakthrough.
The interior minister said the government had requested religious leaders and scholars to play their role in resolving the matter.
He said the government on Saturday had already agreed to the suggestions of a thirty-member delegation and it is hoped that the leaders of the protesters will also agree with them.
The minister said the protest was also making Pakistan look bad for the international community. He also talked about the delegation of the Joint Coordination Committee of CPEC and the visit of the Chinese delegation which is expected today (Monday) in Islamabad.
He said over eight million people in the twin cities have been besieged as a result of the protest sit-in of the religious group.
“Patients can’t be taken to hospitals, students’ education is badly affected; businesses are being deteriorated as the result of the sit-in.”
He said the government was attempting to find a solution to the matter. He said the protesters had no reason to continue with the sit-in.
Responding to a question he said the protesters wanted the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid. However, he added, there was no proof that the law minister actually was responsible for the mistake.
“A committee has been formed in this regard that will probe the matter so there is no justification for the protest,” he said.
The minister said public pressure on the government was increasing and despite the Islamabad High Court’s orders, the government was avoiding to take strict action. He also framed the protest as being political rather than religious. “Such organisations take these steps to advance their political agenda,” He said.
Minister of State for Religious Affairs Aminul Hasnat Shah said the government was making its utmost efforts to resolve the issue peacefully.