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‘If Faizabad protesters are given an inch, others will take a mile’

Legal experts and religious leaders have condemned the defiance of the protesters staging a sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange in the federal capital for the last 13 days despite the Islamabad High Court (IHC) orders to end the protest on Saturday, saying the government should not succumb to pressure and ensure the writ of the state at all costs.

While the government was ordered by IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui to get Faizabad vacated from the protesters by 10am, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal announced that the administration wanted to resolve the issue peacefully by giving the religious activists 24 hours to end the protest and return to their homes.

The protesters are demanding the removal of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, blasphemy convict Asiya Bibi’s execution, dismissal of cases against religious leaders, and the removal of various extremist clerics’ names from the Fourth Schedule.

Commenting on the issue, Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook, who is representing Asiya Bibi in the top court, told Pakistan Today that the protesters’ demand was a bid to pressurise the judges as the hearing for her appeal against the conviction is likely to be taken up in December.

“The protesters are not even respecting Asiya Bibi’s fundamental right to appeal and are now threatening the judges,” he said.

Advocate Mulook said that the IHC had ordered the protesters to end their sit-in but they didn’t, which was in clear violation of the constitution and makes them similar to any terror group.

Mulook lamented that the protesters have no regard for the constitution and are challenging the state’s writ.

“The state should not succumb to such pressure groups in any case,” he said.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, a leader of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), said that the government needs to make names of lawmakers involved in amending the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat oath public.

However, he said that protesters’ demand of Asiya Bibi’s execution is unfair and the decision is for the Supreme Court to take.

“Everyone should respect the rule of law,” he added.

The cleric urged for talks between the government and protesters, however, in a conflicting statement he also said that the demonstration was being carried out at the behest of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and was being tacitly supported by the government.

Responding to a question, the cleric said that minorities are not under threat in Pakistan.

Lauding interfaith harmony in Pakistan, he said that “we (Muslims) protect non-Muslims in the country but we cannot respect Ahmedis because they are not Muslims”.

Responding to another question, the PUC chief said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Nawaz Sharif are responsible for people not respecting the judiciary as they have time and again publicly criticised the courts.

“No one believes in the state’s writ,” he added.

Human rights activist Jibran Nasir told Pakistan Today that the protest is a political move and lamented that no political leader from opposition parties is speaking up against the sit-in.

“These people are not just threat to minorities they are also a threat to majority-Muslim sects,” he added.

They accepted the ISPR DG’s statement that no compromise would be made on the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat oath, however, the government has reiterated the same thing but they are still protesting against the ruling party, Jibran added, questioning the protesters’ intentions.

Human rights lawyer and civil society activist Asma Jahangir echoed Nasir’s remarks, saying the demands of the protesters are unreasonable.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb blamed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan for starting the tradition of sit-ins and added that the government is quite used to dealing with such situations.

“The government is trying to resolve the matter peacefully,” she said, adding that people of twin cities are suffering from the protest.

Repeated attempts were made to contact Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and State Minister for Interior Affairs Talal Chaudhry for comments but they remained unavailable.

Malik, Rabia. ‘If Faizabad protesters are given an inch, others will take a mile’. Pakistan Today, November 18, 2017.

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