WEB DESK: As pro-Qadri protesters melted into the night at the end of their four-day ‘dharna’ making victory signs, the interior minister insisted that nothing had been conceded except giving them the safe exit out of the D-Chowk.
Seemingly, both sides have claimed success, unmindful of the fact that the net victims of this much ado about nothing were not they but the residents of Islamabad. For four days the capital city was paralysed as its principal business venue, Blue Area, was almost shut down and a large majority was left incommunicado as mobile-phone services remained suspended.
The question whether it was a farce that ended the way it was expected, or a genuine protest on the part of Qadri lovers, will have no easy answer, not only because of the theatrics on the part of the government, but also for the hollowness of the protestors who were on the ground for what they boisterously called a do-or-die mission. Of the 10 demands made by the protestors only a couple of those have been conceded which hardly usher in an era that the protestors’ leadership had promised.
That there would be no changes to the blasphemy laws the government had no problem with it because this was not being contemplated. That the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act be reviewed was a demand or an objective that was already under government’s considerations. But where the government put its foot down was its refusal to concede the demand that the assassin of Salmaan Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri, be declared a martyr, that Aasia Bibi be executed and those involved in vandalising public property be spared. In fact, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar left no one in doubt that there was no ‘agreement’ whatsoever with the protestors’ leadership, maintaining that but for the intervention of two respectable gentlemen – Karachi businessman Haji Rafiq Pardesi and JUP chief Maulana Owais Noorani – the protestors would have been evicted by brute force. The question however remains why it took the government four days to retrieve the Red Zone that houses the symbolic representation of the state and Diplomatic Enclave from the possession of the pro-Qadri protestors even when, according to Chaudhry Nisar, they were only one-fifth of the law-enforcement contingent around them and had occupied the place without permission.
Is it then the case that the PML (N) government had lent an opportunity to the Barelvi leadership to establish its political clout as a counterweight to offset the pressure exerted by religious political parties of Deobandi school of thought. If that was the consideration, then it is the PML-N’s baby to nurture, and not the public who saw the entire disgusting saga of the pro-Qadri protest as mockery of law and failure of law-enforcement agencies. How come thousands of protestors, walking all the way on foot from Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, barged into Islamabad’s Red Zone without interdiction by the police? It is our hope the report by the committee set up to look into this fiasco would be made public and those guilty of dereliction of duty duly penalised.
The people also would like to know what treatment is meted out to those who damaged the Metro-bus station, set six containers on fire and vandalised vehicles. The argument if the damage caused to the parliament building and PTV station by the PTI-PAT protesters of yesteryear could be overlooked why not spare the pro-Qadri group, makes no sense – two wrongs don’t make one right. Yes, the people who arrive at the Red Zone ‘hold the government by the neck’, but that is not good enough reason to declare the D-Chowk a no-go area. Let the protestors, of all hues and pursuits, reach up to this place to vent their feelings in front of their elected representatives. And as they do it the law-enforcement agencies should see to it that they don’t become violent, and if they do, remove them from there by force. That was not done in the case of pro-Qadri protestors.
Within 24-hour of Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali’s announcement of deadline for the “dharna protesters” to clear D-Chowk, three federal ministers led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, intervened and provided “safe exit” to the protesters. Any “understanding” or “face saving” apart, the four-day siege of red zone ended without “hue and cry.” All is well that ends well, but it did not end well within the ruling PML-N.
The ministerial team that did not include the interior minister assured the delegation of Sunni Tehreek and JUP-Noorani the government would seriously consider their seven out of ten points including no amendment to the blasphemy law. Dar is likely to take the Parliament into confidence on the issue while the opposition intends to question the role of Ch. Nisar and why the initiative was taken from him while he was handling the situation his own way.
The National Assembly session on April 7 will be quite stormy as it would discuss the manner in which mob entered the Red Zone without much resistance. The interior minister is resisting the release of those involved in setting public property on fire.
Whatever happened in the last 24-hours did not go well within the federal government as clearly Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s senior members never appeared on “one page” in dealing with protesters. Earlier, Nawaz had faced similar situation when Defence Minister Kh Asif had disclosed that he was not on talking terms with Ch. Nisar.
The religious parties’ leaders who reached an “understanding” with these ministers got something to cheer their supporters by announcing the government had agreed to implement their seven out of ten-point demands.
It is quite surprising as to why the PM handed over the job to clear red zone to Ishaq Dar while Ch. Nisar was in touch with some religious leaders to persuade the protesters to clear D-Chowk. Did Nisar’s decision to set the deadline alert the PM or his minister Kh Saad Rafiq persuaded him to give protesters some “face saving.”
Some PML-N leaders still fear that the fallout of Qadri’s execution could hurt the party in the next elections as this issue is unlikely to die down particularly if the religious parties form a grand alliance and join hands with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Thus they wanted to defuse the situation at all cost and wanted to avoid use of any force. Ch. Nisar himself was well aware of this situation and wanted to handle it in a manner in which he had sorted out “Maulana Abdul Aziz” issue. He knew the failure of his own administration in taking pre-emptive measures despite IB’s warning and possible outcome of March 27 Chelum of Mumtaz Qadri. Nisar has ordered an inquiry into the events which had taken place on the day the mob entered the “red zone” and staged dharna.
Now, one has to wait and see the interior minister’s position on the “understanding” between religious leaders and Ishaq Dar’s committee. Shall Nisar allow release of all those arrested in connection with attacks on metro bus station and other public properties. Some other demands also required his ministry’s input on those arrested under fourth schedule.
While Nisar never opted for violent means to clear the area, why Ishaq Dar and other two ministers entered into the controversy and caused embarrassment to him, not because it resolved the matter but because the concerned minister had other means to resolve it peacefully.
If the PM himself gave the task to the finance minister, then things might get tense between Dar and Nisar. Here the rule of Nawaz Sharif is very important. The differences among his cabinet colleagues including some senior ministers have raised question over functioning of his government and governance.
Ch Nisar, Kh Asif, Dar, Ahsan Iqbal, Kh Saad, Pervez Rasheed and some others are also part of Nawaz’s “core team”, besides brother Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. He often discusses with them important matters particularly civil-military relationship if there is some tension.
Some recent incidents — the capture of a RAW agent and terrorism in Lahore — led to the cancellation of PM’s visit to US where he was also expecting a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The devastating suicide or remote-control attack on National Park in Lahore, a PML-N constituency, convinced the PM to cancel the visit. His decision was generally hailed in Pakistan and also abroad, but the March 27 move to observe Mumtaz Qadri’s chelum, a few weeks earlier and mobs entry into the Red Zone surprised some government circles who link PM’s visit cancellation to these back-to-back events and believe he may not have taken such an important decision because of the blast alone.
The PM disappointed many with his address to the nation in which he tried to give an impression that his government’s writ could not be challenged. People were expecting some decisive line of action like operation in Punjab. While he avoided any such announcement it came from the army after a meeting at GHQ which was followed by the intelligence-based operations.
The PM has a task ahead as he has to take some crucial decisions in the next few months. Will he go for a Karachi-like operation in Punjab? Will he allow the Punjab CM to call in the Rangers and gave them powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act like.
However, the PM’s biggest political challenge would be to defuse the situation in the wake of the Mumtaz Qadri episode. The PML in the past remained an ally of JUP-Noorani and later with JUP-Niazi. He is likely to consolidate his relations with JUI-F, completely knowing the capability of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Their common political rival would be Imran Khan whose alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami is still intact but has failed in other parts of the country other than Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
For all this Nawaz needs to first put his own “house in-order.” In this “dharna”, the party looked quite divided unlike in 2014 Imran Khan’s sit-in. His decisions in the next three to six months would set the tone for PML-N’s take-off for the next elections. (The writer is the senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang)
WEB DESK:The four-day long sit-in by supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, came to an end on Wednesday after government gave them a safe passage under the pretext of accepting some of their demands.
Despite repeated warnings by the administration, the clerics remained steadfast till last minute but the deployment of over 7000 baton-yielding personnel of police, FC and Rangers to conduct an operation, forced the protesting clerics to manage a face-saving exit.
In order to strike a deal with clerics, the government made life difficult for them by stopping supply of food and water. Food supply to them remained blocked during their protest. Some protesters were even seen eating grass and leaves to beat hunger. Some protesters fainted due to exhaustion and hunger. They were rushed to hospitals by Rescue 1122. Before protesters dispersed, an announcement was made by the organisers of the protest that an FIR would be registered against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and others for the loss of two lives. However, police rejected the claims made by the clerics that two of their protesters died due to hunger. “No participant of the sit-in protest died in any hospital of the city,” said SSP operation Sajid Kayani in a statement.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan Chairman Shah Owais Noorani and Rafiq Pardesi played an important role towards successful negotiations. Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, leader of Sunni Tehrik (ST), along with Noorani and others indulged a prolonged session of dialogue between the government and protestors. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique and Minister of State for Religious Affairs Pir Mohammad Amin Ul Hasnat Shah represented the government in the negotiations.
Contrary to the original demands presented by protesters, a seven-point agreement was reached between the two sides, which included an assurance that no amendment to 295-C of the Blasphemy Law will be made, arrested protesters will be released, those convicted under the Blasphemy Law will not be spared, the list of the Fourth Schedule would be reviewed, withdrawal of cases against clerics, directions will be issued to PEMRA to stop vulgarity on media channels while Ministry of Religious Affairs will be asked to draft recommendations for the implementation of “Nizam-e-Mustafa”.
However, some key demands earlier issued by protesters under the banner of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool-o-Allah (PBUH) could not be met. These included the unconditional release of all Sunni clerics and leaders booked on various charges, including terrorism and murder; official recognition of Mumtaz Qadri as a “martyr” and the conversion of his Adiala Jail cell into a national heritage site; the removal of Ahmadis and other non-Muslims who had occupied key posts.
Earlier, the government had given the protesters an ultimatum to leave late Tuesday, but it went unheeded, prompting the government to issue a second warning, announcing that security forces would begin an operation to clear the area by Wednesday morning but an expected action was averted at the eleventh hour following successful negotiations between the two sides.
Around 7,000 personnel of Islamabad and Punjab along with FC and Rangers cordoned off the protest venue for a possible crackdown, blocking all the roads leading to D-Chowk, the venue of the sit-in protest and also arrested scores of protesters from the outsides the venue.
The agreed points were shared with the media and by the protesters’ leader Pir Mohammad Afzal Qadri, who stated that it was a ‘big achievement’ of the movement. ST leader Sarwat Ijaz Qadri said the government needs to ensure implementation of the agreed points and hoped that all the arrested activists would be released as per the understanding. Soon after the announcement that an agreement was reached between the protesters and the government, the cellular phones companies restored blocked services which remained suspended for the last three days due to security reasons.
Pakistan’s interior minister says hundreds of Islamists protesting the hanging of a policeman who had shot and killed a secular governor have ended their rally outside parliament.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says the protesters began dispersing Wednesday after he had earlier warned that the government would use force if they failed to depart peacefully.
Awais Noorani, one of the protest leaders, called on demonstrators to disperse, saying a deal had been reached with the government.
The interior minister denied any agreement had been reached, but said religious leaders had helped convince the protesters to leave the area.
The protesters were demanding strict Shariah law after the hanging of police officer Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Gov. Salman Taseer in 2011 over his opposition to the country’s far-ranging blasphemy laws.
They also demanded the hanging of a Christian woman Taseer had defended against blasphemy allegations, and asked that Qadri be declared a national martyr.
Khan says police have detained more than 1,000 protesters over the last four days, and would only release those not implicated in violence.
Pakistan’s interior minister has warned hundreds of radical Islamists rallying for the past four days in central Islamabad to disperse peacefully and end their protest within hours.
The minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said late Tuesday that if the Islamists fail to do so, the government would disperse them by force.
The rally turned violent on Sunday, when more than 10,000 Islamists from Pakistan’s Sunni Tehreek group descended on the capital to denounce last month’s hanging of officer Mumtaz Qadri for the 2011 murder of secular Gov. Salman Taseer who had campaigned against Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws.
Since the start of the rally, the crowds have dwindled down to about 1,200 people. The protesters also demand the hanging of a jailed Christian woman whom Taseer had defended against blasphemy allegations
Read more at http://www.mb.com.ph/obama-offers-condolences-over-pakistan-bombing/#6KJKVgT6jojc02z1.99
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique on Wednesday said the government removed reservations of protestors of religious parties to end sit-in at D-Chowk amicably.
The government developed understanding on seven points with religious leaders. No written agreement was signed between government and protestors, he said while talking to a news channel.
The minister said religious leaders met him at his home on Tuesday and he warmly welcomed them. They showed willingness to settle the problem in a peaceful manner. He said earlier, Chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani) Shah Awais Noorani also contacted him.
Saad told the religious leaders that there was no space to sign a written agreement as the protestors had
damaged metro stations and other government property.
He said, “We will not release those protestors, who violated law and damaged public and government property.”
- Protesters, govt reach an ‘understanding’ on seven points to end sit-in protest at D-Chowk
- Chaudhry Nisar says govt will not allow any religious or political protests in Red Zone of federal capital
- Says govt has not signed any ‘agreement’ with protest leaders, will release only those protesters who were not involved in violence
By Mian Abrar and Shah Nawaz Mohal
The four-day sit-in of religious parties at Islamabad’s D-Chowk came to an amicable end on Wednesday evening, following successful talks between the government and protest leaders which left the government holding all the cards.
In a deal reminiscent of the one that was struck between Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Tahirul Qadri and the then-PPP government of Raja Pervez Ashraf in January 2013, the government gave away practically nothing to the protestors and the conflict was resolved without resorting to violence and bloodshed.
To wrap an already good day at the office, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that from now on D-Chowk is strictly off-limits for any political or religious party which wants to hold a protest there.
“No political or religious gatherings and demonstrations will be allowed at D-Chowk. This is a highly sensitive area; we can’t allow groups of people to hold the government hostage,” he said while talking to reporters.
The administration confirmed the dialogue was successful about an hour before the protesters started leaving the venue dancing in groups and looking overjoyed at the outcome of the four-day protest.
Only two of the 11 demands put forward by the protestors were agreed to without modification by the government during negotiations which were held at the house of Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Earlier in the morning, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting with Nisar and directed him to clear the Red Zone of the federal capital.
The seven points agreed to between the government and protesters included two of protesters’ demands – no amendment in Section 295-C of the PPC (blasphemy law) and no concession to anyone convicted of blasphemy law – though there was never an indication that the government planned to amend the blasphemy law or was going to pardon anyone convicted of blasphemy.
The rest of the demands were either rejected by the government or accepted after modifications to make them toothless and keep the advantage strictly with the government.
The government agreed that ‘peaceful’ protesters will be released, fourth schedule list will be reviewed, charges against Ulema will be re-assessed, recommendations regarding Nizam-e-Mustafa can be sent to Religious Affairs Ministry and that the Ulema can contact Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), along with proofs of obscene programmes on TV channels.
The name of executed murderer Mumtaz Qadri, who had inspired this protest as well as hundreds of others held throughout the country during the last few months, did not feature in the final agreement.
The original demands of the protesters included the following: (1) The imposition of “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (2) Execution of Christian blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi (3) No amendment to Section 295-C of the blasphemy laws (4) Immediate release of Namoos-e-Risalat activists (5) Immediate execution of those accused of blaspheming against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) (6) Declare Mumtaz Qadri officially a “Shaheed” (7) Announce the declaration regarding ‘martyrdom for Qadri’ on media (8) Accused of Namoos-e-Risalat should be excluded from Diyat and Qisas (9) Members of the Ahmedia community should be expelled from the country and (10) All Ahmedis working in government departments should be terminated from service. The protestors had also demanded that Mumtaz Qadri’s jail cell in Adiala be declared a national heritage site.
While the negotiations took place behind the scenes, Rangers, police and FC personnel kept encircling the over 1,000 strong crowd. However, no instance of conflict or violence was reported on Wednesday.
THE TENSE STANDOFF:
Rumours of an imminent operation kept flying throughout the day.
The 1,000 strong baton-wielding protesters roamed around the venue, which had been encircled by more than 7,000 personnel from Islamabad Police, Rangers and FC, many of them in riot gear, armed with batons, tear-gas guns and shells. They were backed by trucks mounted with water cannons. The police, however, were not given any firearms on the direction of the interior minister.
Senate Secretariat, National Assembly Secretariat, FBR, Supreme Court, PM’s Office and all the surrounding buildings were vacated in the afternoon. The government officers left offices before time in anticipation of the operation.
PIMS and Polyclinic announced emergency to deal with any eventuality in case the government started the operation. The non-critical patients were discharged and more beds were made available.
Inside the circle, firebrand speakers kept giving rousing speeches to boost the morale of the participants.
But the law enforcement agencies kept their distance and violence was avoided.
PROTESTERS TERMINATE SIT-IN:
As evening approached, and probably with hopes of a breakthrough in talks, the mobile service was resumed in the area.
Negotiations were held at Railways Minister Saad Rafique’s residence. Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Minister of State for Religious Affairs Peer Ameen ul Hasnaat and Khwaja Saad Rafque represented the government. JUP leader Shah Owais Noorani, Tehreek-e–Labaik-Ya-Rasool Allah Chairman Dr Asif Ashraf Jalali, Sunni Tehreek Chairman Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, Allama Haji Rafeeq Pardesi, Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Hamid Raza and Afzal Qadri represented the protestors in the negotiations.
After the negotiations ended, district administration announced that talks had been successful. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar also announced that protestors had agreed to vacate D-Chowk after negotiations with the government.
At around 7 in the evening, Shah Owais Noorani and Haji Rafeeq Pardesi addressed the protesters and called off the sit-in. They thanked the government for accepting their demands. After offering a collective prayer, the leadership ordered the participants of the sit-in to go back to their homes. The protesters celebrated by raising slogans and hugging each other.
AN UNDERSTANDING, NOT AN AGREEMENT:
Interior Minister Nisar, while talking to media said that no written agreement with the Barelvi leaders been signed. Ishaq Dar also confirmed that the document was never actually signed. But, the PML-N stalwart said an ‘understanding’ was reached between the protesters and the government.
Out of 1,070 arrested protesters, Nisar said those who did not commit any act of vandalism will be freed. Those who committed crimes will be punished as per law. He said the hooligans who damaged metro bus stations, fire brigade vehicles and Safe City Project cameras and equipment will be punished severely. He also acknowledged the role of Ulema for a consensus on the issue.
Nisar, who was not part of the negotiation team, conducted the press briefing alone.
He said that changes will be brought by passing legislation in the parliament. He said the changes will also benefit the police force in establishing their writ in a more effective manner.
The interior minister elaborated that the operation to remove the pro-Qadri demonstrators was not conducted earlier, as reinforcements were needed to shore up the federal capital’s police force. He also said, “We wanted to conduct the law enforcement action during daylight hours.”
“We had decided to vacate Red Zone last night, but some respected figures from Karachi intervened and held talks,” the interior minister said.
“With the Parliament’s approval, we will make changes in Islamabad police to prevent such invasions in future and establish the state’s writ,” he added.
GOVT IS HAPPY WITH OUTCOME, PROTESTERS SAY THEY’RE HAPPY TOO:
But while the government quarters said they had not given anything in writing, Sunni Tehreek chief Sarwat Ijaz Qadri said the government had conceded to major demands of the protestors including the imposition of Nizam-e-Mustafa.
“The government has agreed to contact the Ministry of Religious Affairs for exclusion of all clauses against Shariah from the law,” he said.
He said that both sides would increase engagement to ensure implementation of the agreement in letter and spirit.
Shah Owais Noorani, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) and one of the negotiators for the protesters, said they had reached an unwritten pact with the government and while all the seven assurances given by the government were verbal “the people part of the dialogue would act as guarantor”.
Lauding the role of Ishaq Dar and Saad Rafique, Noorani said efforts for a peaceful resolution of the matter had yielded results as both sides had shown flexibility.
“There was disconnect between the government and protesters which resulted in misunderstandings.
“We tried to plug the gaps and this sincere effort yielded results,” he added.
“When the government gave us assurances, things were sorted out peacefully,” he added. Asked why there was no written pact, Noorani said that during the past two sit-ins, there was no written agreement between the government and the protesters.
Asked what the point of the protest was if Mumtaz Qadri’s name was not even mentioned in the final agreement, Noorani said that the indecent haste adopted in hanging Mumtaz Qadri had prompted concerns among the faithful that efforts were underway to repeal blasphemy law.
“No black warrants were issued for Mumtaz Qadri, and no due process of law was adopted. This discrimination prompted massive protests. Had the government followed due process, things would have been peaceful,” he added.
Khwaja Saad Rafique also confirmed a deal between the government and protesters, saying it was an understanding and not a written agreement.
“There is no written agreement as Chaudhry Nisar said.”
Rafique said that Owais Noorani had contacted him two days ago to help avoid a confrontation.
“Haji Rafique Pardesi also contacted me. The leaders of the sit-in came to my residence. We had to reciprocate the gesture. The religious leaders of the sit-in showed flexibility and we responded with the same currency,” he added.
Rafique, however, said the government had made sure that protesters who were involved in ransacking and vandalising state and private property would not be spared.
“We assured them that those who did not take part in violence will be released,” he added.
He said the protestors were told the government had no power to make concessions in the case of Mumtaz Qadri, or pardon those convicted by courts.
“We have resolved the misunderstanding and given them assurances. But this is not a pact. It’s an understanding,” he said.
The four-day protest left three people dead, almost 50 injured, two metro bus stations in shambles, numerous shops destroyed and a number of government and private vehicles set on fire.
KARACHI: After holding a four-day sit-in on Karachi’s main artery, MA Jinnah Road, the Ittehad-e-Ahle Sunnat ended its protest following successful negotiations with the federal government in Islamabad.
From Friday, a sit-in was held by the Ittehad-e-Ahle Sunnat, an alliance of several parties representing the Barelvi school of thought including Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani), Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat, Sunni Alliance, Sunni Ittehad Council and others at main Numaish Chowrangi, MA Jinnah Road, which also caused a severe traffic jam on the road and the routes leading to it.
Though no major untoward incident occurred during the sit-in, the protesters ended their demonstration on Wednesday evening following successful negotiations with the federal government in Islamabad.
In the last four days, no one was arrested by the police nor was any case registered against the protesters.
“We held a peaceful protest in Karachi. We did not take the law into our hands. Now after the successful negotiations, we ended our protest in Karachi as our leaders asked us to end the sit-in,” said Fahim Shaikh, a leader of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, leading the sit-in in Karachi.
Due to the protest citizens have been dealing with traffic jams for four days, especially during office hours.
According to Karachi’s traffic control room, the traffic going towards Tower has been diverted towards Soldier Bazaar and Garden, whereas traffic coming from Tower has been diverted toward Municipal Street, as the roads in Saddar are open. Another diversion is through PPP Chowrangi, Shahrae Quaideen towards Corridor 3.
Islahuddin, a resident of North Nazimabad who works at shop in Saddar told The Express Tribune that he uses New MA Jinnah Road to reach his shop in the morning and traffic on the road has been heavier than usual due to the diversions.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2016.
Federal Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar confirmed that the pro-Qadri protestors camped at D-Chowk have agreed to disperse. Nisar, however said there has been no written agreement with the protestors and those responsible for damaging public property will be punished.
According to reports a seven-point verbal agreement between government and Ullema representing the pro-Qadri protestors in D-Chowk had been reached, Waqt News reported. The seven points are as follows:
‘1. All arrested during the sit-in will be released.
2. All cases against various Ullema will be reevaluated.
3. Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law will neither be changed nor reevaluated.
4. No person involved in blasphemy will be spared.
5. Ministry of religious affairs will be told about the implications of Nizam-e-Mustafa (SAW).
6. The schedule list will be evaluated and the names of innocent will be extracted from the list.
7. All cases against protestors will be annulled’
Earlier it had been reported that leaders of the pro-Qadri protestors, camped in D-Chowk Islamabad, are ready to take back all their all demands. According to initial reports their only demand had been that the government should retract cases against them and give them a safe exit.
The government had launched an operation following the failure of the negotiations over the past two days. Security personnel including police and Rangers initiated the first phase of operation against protestors staging their sit-in with children and elders being extracted from the area.
“Respectable personalities did a great work in last minutes,” Nisar said while addressing the press conference. “Punjab Government gave permission for the Chehlum with good intention. Some people staged sit-ins while taking advantage of the gathering.
Nisar said no rallies would be allowed in the area henceforth.
“The tradition of arranging rallies at D-Chowk started from the Zia-ul-Haq era, but from now on no religious or political party will be allowed to arrange rally here,” he said. “Any sit-in in this area means that you halt the whole system of the government. From now on police will be given powers to implement their writ in this area in case of a rally or sit-in.”
While talking about the operation against the protestors he said that the first deadline given to the protestors was 4pm. “Then after interference of some respectful personalities it was delayed to 6 pm,” he said.
The interior minister said that 1,070 people have been arrested during this protest and after detailed investigation, they will be released. “The people who have attacked Metro Bus station, Safe City cameras, torched the Fire Brigade and broke the state property will taken to the court as they have been identified. The rest will be released,” he said.
While answering the question regarding the agreement that there is no written agreement has been signed between government and the leaders of the protest. “No one has the authority from the government to finalize any deal in writing.”
The Federal Minister further stated that the initial deadline had not been met yesterday because it was late at night and administratively it was not possible. “Also the respectable personalities of this area assured us that they will make the protestors agree to leave the place. Furthermore the Islamabad police do not have the strength to do this large scale operation so we had to call the force from other cities.”
The Interior Minister said everyone should be happy that the protest has ended amicably. “Now everyone should know that D-Chowk is not a place for religious and political rallies.”
According to sources, while the operation was underway negotiations still continued at Punjab House, Islamabad. They were the ‘last-ditch’ efforts to resolve the issue amicably, government sources told media.
According to sources Shah Noorani and other Ullema were talking to Sarwat Ijaz Qadri and other leaders of the sit-in. Dr Asif Asharaf Jalali, Sarwat Ijaz Qadri and Maulana Khadim Hussain were the Ullemas representing the pro-Qadri protestors.
Senior PML-N leaders and federal ministers Ishaq Dar and Saad Rafique represented the government in the negotiations. Peer Aminul Hasnaat was also a government representative while Rafiq Pardesi and Ahmad Noorani played the role of mediators.
Earlier, security institutions had been instructed to conduct operation ‘without using hard power,’ government sources told the media.
According to reports, the decision to initiate the operation was taken after a high level meeting of the government chaired by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The protestors began their sit-in inside the Red Zone, Islamabad on the Chehlum of Mumtaz Qadri four days ago. The protestors had lit up the containers, CDA vehicle and a Metro Bus Station in Islamabad during their protest.
They had presented 10 demands to the government which include official recognition of Qadri as a ‘martyr’, maintenance of the blasphemy law in existing form and execution of everyone under custody after being indicted over blasphemy, including Asia Bibi.
The protestors had refused to talk with the Islamabad authorities and have demanded that unless the presence of political leadership of ruling party, there will be no negotiations.
The government had tried to resolve the issue amicably and has given three deadlines to the protestors to leave Red Zone but all had gone futile.
SLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Dialogue between the government and the protestors, who staged a sit-in at the D-Chowk for the past few days, turns out to be fruitful as the latter dispersed after the matters between the two parties were resolved peacefully, reported Dunya News.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan Chairman Shah Owais Noorani played an important role towards the negotiations becoming successful. Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, leader of Sunni Tehrik, along with Noorani and other prominent leaders of the protest indulged into a prolonged session of dialogue between the government and the protestors.
Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Pir Amin al-Hasnat represented the government in the dialogue session. A 7-point agreement was reached between the two parties, which involved the reviewing of registered cases against various religious leaders and that the arrested protestors will also be released.
The protestors began to evacuate the D-Chowk as soon the news regarding the negotiations becoming a success was surfaced.
The cellular service in the capital has also been restored.
ISLAMABAD: The four-day sit-in by religious groups at Islamabad’s D-Chowk came to an end on Wednesday following successful talks with the federal government.
Sunni Tehreek (ST) leader Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Hamid Raza and Afzal Qadri represented the protestors while Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Pir Ameen Hasnat and Federal Religions Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique appeared on behalf of the government.
JUP leader Owais Noorani and Rafiq Pardesi mediated the talks between the government and protestors.
A seven-point agreement has been reached between the two sides.
The government has made an assurance to protestors that no proposal is under consideration to amend blasphemy laws.
The protesting leaders announced to end the sit-in after which activists started leaving D-Chowk.
They also claimed that two of their workers, who fainted earlier in the day, passed away at a hospital.
“We will lodge a murder case against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali,” they announced.
The four-day protest began on Sunday after thousands of people, who gathered to attend the chehlum of executed guard Mumtaz Qadr in Rawalpindi, forcefully entered Islamabad’s Red Zone and staged a sit-in. – SAMAA
ISLAMABAD: The participants of protest sit-in that entered into its fourth day today at D-Chowk in the Red Zone of the capital city dispersed as a result of successful negotiations with the government.
The leaders of the sit-in at the D-Chowk announced the end of their protest and asked the participants to peacefully leave for their homes.
Allama Shah Awais Noorani and Haji Rafique Pardesi played an important role in brokering an agreement on seven points between the representatives of protesters and the government during a meeting held here at the residence of Federal Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafiq and State Minister Pir Aminul Ahsanat represented the government’s side during the meeting.
Geo News exclusively obtained the seven points agreed upon between the government and protest representatives. These are: 1) no amendment in Article 295-C of the Constitution pertaining to blasphemy is under consideration and no change will be made in this article; 2) peaceful protesters in detention will be released; 3) no leniency will be shown to the convicts of blasphemy; 4) review of the Fourth Schedule is currently underway and the name of innocent people will be removed from the list; 5) withdrawal of cases against Ulema will be reviewed; 6) Ulema will approach Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) with proves to get telecast of ‘obscene programmes’ banned on television channels; 7) recommendations for enforcement of Nizam-e-Mustaf (PBUH) will presented to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Earlier, mobiles services that remained suspended across Islamabad for over three-days also began to restore.
The protesters had marched from Rawalpindi marking the Chehlum of Mumtaz Qadri, murderer of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer who was hanged last month on the orders of Supreme Court.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: After the successful negotiations between the federal government team and the protesting religious leaders, the four-day sit-in was called off at the D-Chowk in Islamabad on Wednesday.
The meeting between the sit-in leaders and the government representatives was held at the residence of Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq in Islamabad in which the two sides reached a seven-point agreement, sources said.
The sources further said that the meeting was attended by Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saaed Rafiq, State Minister for Religious Affairs, Peer Muhammad Amil-ul-Hasanat Shah while the sit-in leaders’ delegation comprised Hamid Raza Qadri, Sarwat Ajaz Qardi, Asif Jalali and Afzal Qadri.
On the occasion, Shah Owais Noorani and Haji Rafiq Pardasi played the role of mediators, the sources added.
Meanwhile, mobile phone service has been resumed in the Federal Capital after government’s successful talks with the protesters.
Negotiations between government and protestors who have staged a sit-in at D-Chowk have been successful as the latter have decided to evacuate the area, reported Dunya News.
An important press conference by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar is due to take place at 7pm.
After the assurances from the government, the protestors have agreed to disperse peacefully.
Chairman Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan Owais Noorani stated that good news regarding the negotiations between the protestors and the government will soon be made public.
The leaders of the demonstrators demanded that the government release the apprehended protestors and to take back the cases against them. Sources have also indicated that the district government will be providing transportation to the protestors on their way back.
According to latest reports, Rangers have been instructed by the authorities to stay back as the chances of the use of force to evacuate the protestors from D-Chowk have diminished.
Earlier, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan -Noorani group leader Shah Owais Noorani said that nation would hear good news within 30 minutes.
“There has been good progress. Inshahullah, there will good news in 30 minutes,” he said, adding JUP doesn’t support the operation at all.
“It is our sit-in. We will not support the operation whatsoever. Government should reconsider its decision and try to end the issue through negotiations,” he said.
To a question, he said that there was no deadlock in talks with the government.
According to ARY News’ correspondent Zulqarnain Haider, the law enforcement personnel have taken positions around the Islamabad protesters and are advancing. Punjab police and FC personnel started advancing towards the protesters and took up positions close to D-Chowk.
Meanwhile, the government was monitoring the Red Zone aerially through the use of a helicopter. State-owned television reported that the first phase of the operation had begun. The negotiating committee which had been handling talks with protesters left D-Chowk.
Owais Noorani, a member of the negotiating committee, said that the committee would return by half-an-hour and good news would be announced soon. Noorani also said that an operation would not be conducted since things would not come to that point.
Pir Afzal Qadri said while speaking to ARY News that the government had accepted all major demands of the protesters. Meanwhile, Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, Pir Afzal Qadri and Mohommad Rafeeq had left for Punjab House to take part in negotiations.
Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar will conduct a press conference at Punjab House around six-thirty pm and brief the media regarding the latest developments.
ARY News’ bureau chief Sabir Shakir said that earlier reports of the operation about to begin were incorrect.
ISLAMABAD: Shah Owais Noorani, an influential religious leader, said that nation would hear good news soon regarding ongoing protest at D-Chowk in Islamabad.
“There has been positive progress. Inshahullah (God willing), there will be good news within 30 minutes,” Noorani told SAMAA.
“Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) doesn’t support the operation at all. It is our sit-in. The government should review its decision and try to end the row through dialogue,” he said.
He appealed to people top pray for Pakistan in the wake of Lahore attack and other challenges facing the country.
His remarks came as police and paramilitary troops took position to begin a crackdown in order to evict demonstrators from Red Zone.
According to our correspondent, governemnt will have to launch the operation if protestors don’t disperse 20 to 30 minutes. – SAMAA
Nation to hear good news in 30 minutes: Noorani
ISLAMABAD: Shah Owais Noorani, an influential religious leader, said that nation would hear good news soon regarding ongoing protest at D-Chowk in Islamabad.
The sit-in at Islamabad entered its fourth day on Wednesday as protesters violated a deadline given by the government to vacate the Red Zone by midnight.
A delegation representing the government negotiated with the protesters all night long. At four in the morning, a satisfied Professor Ashraf Jilani, who represented the protesters, told media that many of their demands were being considered by the government.
Sources said a breakthrough in negotiations is expected later this evening.
Several rounds of talks between the government and protesters have taken place since yesterday. In the first round of talks the administration and cleric Ovais Noorani met Ijaz Qadri and Professor Ashraf at Punjab House.
A second round of talks was held at federal minister Khwaja Saad Rafique’s residence.
The government wants protesters to disperse without it having to use violence.
Meanwhile in Karachi, supporters in solidarity with the Islamabad protest have staged a sit-in at Numaish Chowrangi, blocking the flow of traffic through MA Jinnah Road for three days now.
On Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that if protesters at D-Chowk in front of the Parliament building did not disperse by midnight then the sensitive Red-Zone area of the federal capital would be evacuated ‘peacefully’ by Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference here, he said some people were found involved in damaging government installations and inflicting injuries to the security officials. “We want to evacuate D-Chowk area in presence of the media peacefully [on Wednesday].”
Meanwhile, mobile phone services remained blocked for a fourth day in Islamabad today as hundreds of activists belonging to various religious groups continued to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
The government had on Monday registered an FIR against Sarwat Qadri, Khadim Hussain, Afzal Qadri and Dr Ashraf.
The cases have been registered at the I-9, Secretariat and Kohsar police stations. Charges against them include violating the Loud Speaker Act, vandalizing public property, instigating hate against the government and violating section 144 at the Red Zone.
KARACHI: As the Islamabad stand-off between the pro-Qadri protesters and the authorities continued for a third consecutive day with charged crowds in Karachi and some other cities holding sit-ins on a daily basis to express solidarity with the protesters, there seems to be a resurgence of the religio-political parties belonging to the Barelvi sect, which had previously remained quiescent, according to political analysts.
In background interviews with Dawn on Tuesday, they said the conspicuous absence of religious parties belonging to other sects at these demonstrations also lent strength to the view that the groups representing the Barelvi school of thought seized a chance to revive themselves by protesting against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri.
An alliance by the name of Ittehad-i-Ahle Sunnat, which had been previously named Tanzeemat-i-Ahle Sunnat, was formed to protest against the impending hanging of the convicted assassin of Punjab governor Salman Taseer and to put forward other demands including the one not to amend the blasphemy laws.
The Monday congregation comprising workers and supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (Noorani), Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Sunni Ittehad Council, Sunni Alliance and Jamaat Ahle Sunnat — all Barelvi in their thought and ideology — at the Numaish traffic intersection made it clear that even some major religious parties belonging to other sects preferred to remain off the radar screen over the issue.
Jamaat-i-Islami spokesperson Zahid Askari, however, said they had attended the protest on Sunday as their “local cadre also marched in the protest rally in Islamabad. But they backed off once the protesters went towards the Red Zone, as this was not part of the initial plan we had agreed upon.”
Yet he clarified that the JI had no plans of participating in any of the protest rallies or marches being held or planned by any other religious party in the coming days.
Explaining the idea of bringing together Barelvi groups on one platform, Prof Ahmed Qadri of the political science department of Karachi University said it was more of a “loose alliance” that got strengthened in the wake of Qadri’s execution.
“Since the right-wing Pakistan National Alliance of 1977, there’s not been a strong congregation of religious parties as such,” he explained. However, he did not see an alliance of that stature in the making any time soon. The Lahore riots of 1953, the movement to declare the Ahmadis non-Muslim, the Pakistan National Alliance of nine religious parties during the general elections of 1977 were some of the examples he quoted to drive home the point that an alliance of that sort wasn’t happening once again.
Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, adjunct professor at the mass communications department of Karachi University, believed that the show of strength by the Barelvi groups specifically in Islamabad had the “backing from the establishment in some way otherwise it is not easy to enter the Red Zone the way they did.”
He said the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan had won the general elections in 1970. Its leader, the late Shah Ahmed Noorani, didn’t bow down to General Zia and at the same time remained “a non-committal supporter of the MRD movement,” said Dr Khan. Despite being weakened by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the 1980s, Shah Ahmed Noorani never reconciled with the party even when the JI did. The formation of another Barelvi group, Sunni Tehreek, soon after the 1992 operation against the MQM, helped the latter as well as the former in gaining a militant network in the city, he argued.
According to him, there are some prominent issues which almost all the religious parties support and agree upon — whether openly or quietly — even if they belong to the bifurcated groups or different sects. These issues, he said, involved the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, the demand to not amend the blasphemy laws, and the hanging of Asia Bibi defending whom Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was labelled a blasphemer and subsequently killed. Another issue was the recently passed bill in Punjab called the Protection of Women against Violence, 2015, he added. “Most of the Ulema consider it similar to the Family Law Ordinance, introduced by Ayub Khan in 1962, which was considered anti-Islam. This is one point that will eventually bring many others in the fold if it hasn’t already,” he said. Yet another issue that Dr Khan said could lure in followers was the ‘secularisation of Pakistan’ through the passage of progressive laws. “You can ban the loudspeakers, but you can’t ban word-of-mouth publicity for a cause. You can’t restrict an ideology,” he added.
“This [Qadri’s hanging] is probably one opportunity which only Barelvi groups look determined to seize. But it depends on where it goes from here. The activism of yesteryear religious leaders is not prevalent anymore,” he said.
“A neutral way, which restores the writ of the state, needs to be considered,” he added.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2016