Protesters peacefully disperse; Nisar says no accord signed withsit-in leaders
ISLAMABAD: Protesters on Wednesday ended their three-day sit-in in the Red Zone of the federal capital following successful negotiations with the government held at the residence of a federal minister.
The points agreed upon by the two sides include the assurance that no amendments will be made to the Constitution’s Article 295-C, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. “Nobody can think of making changes in the blasphemy law,” the agreement reached between the two sides said.
The government side was represented by Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Hasnat and officials from the Islamabad administration.
Maulana Muhammad Awais Noorani and Haji Rafique Pardesi, who especially came from Karachi, acted as mediators between the two sides. They convinced Ejaz Sarwat Qadri, Professor Ashraf Jilani and others to hold the decisive round of talks at the residence of Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Large contingents of the Islamabad and Punjab Police were issued instructions to be the deadline of Wednesday evening was approaching. The protesters who reached the Red Zone on Sunday evening while ransacking a couple of metro stations and burning a few containers had given seven-point charter of demands out of those five were categorically accepted by the government.
The government has also assured the protesters that those who engaged in peaceful protest will be released, and that the withdrawal of cases against clerics will be considered. The government also promised to protesters that no relaxation would be given to those convicted under the Blasphemy.
The government will also review the Anti-Terrorism Act’s Fourth Schedule, a list which includes those most wanted by the federal government. The government has assured that those innocent people wrongfully included in the most wanted list would be removed.
Another point reads that recommendations regarding enforcement of Nizam-e-Mustafa will be referred to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Another point was concerning the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and clerics had been asked to approach Pemra with evidence against airing of objectionable vulgar programmes.
However, no headway was made on the demand that Mumtaz Qadri who was hanged, should be declared as martyr officially. Following the successful negotiations, mobile phone services which were suspended on Sunday for security reasons following the sit-in were restored in the federal capital.
Following end of successful talks, the leaders of protesters reached site of sit-in directing them to peacefully disperse. A large number of protesters had set fire and clashed with police on Sunday and gathered near Parliament for a sit-in to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The protesters had since camped near D Chowk, a high-security zone in Islamabad close to Parliament, key government buildings and foreign embassies.
Earlier, just before darkness, the tense situation eased out as some parents seen taking their young sons away in a hurry from the sit-in. The security forces personnel, mostly police and FC in full gear, were also mindful of the situation and appeared calm. A few of them were offering Asr prayers in green belt, close to under construction Parliament Lodges (extension).
It was fourth day of the activists here, who had allegedly breached a commitment with the Punjab government not to march on Islamabad and disperse peacefully in Rawalpindi after attending ‘chehlum’ of Mumtaz Qadri.
“Whatever happens, will be fine,” remarked a man in late 20s, who appeared reluctant to pass by the police personnel near Muslim Commercial Bank main office opposite to the Metro Bus Station at Jinnah Avenue, which was ransacked on the day activists reached D-Chowk.
The man clad in untidy white dress told ‘The News’, having not eaten for almost two days and was part of the sit-in, declined to disclose his identity but conceded he was feeling relieved to leave the sit-in. But he preferred not to share why.
Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that public meetings, religious gatherings or sit-ins will not be allowed at D-Chowk in future. He was talking to the media persons at the Punjab House on Wednesday after the successful talks between the government and protesting religious leaders.
The minister announced the end of the sit-in at Islamabad’s D-Chowk by pro-Mumtaz Qadri protesters, following successful negotiations between the government and the leaders of the protesters.
He denied any written agreement with the participants of the protesters. He said that strict action would be taken against those involved in ransacking of Metro Bus Stations and cameras of Islamabad safe city project.
“In future, no political or religious gatherings and demonstrations will be allowed at D-Chowk. This is a very sensitive area and we cannot allow groups of people to hold the government hostage,” he averred.
Nisar added that changes would be made by enacting law through the Parliament, and it would also benefit the police forces in establishing their writ in a more effective manner. The interior minister explained 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.”
The interior minister said that the demonstrators involved in destroying or damaging public and private property, attacking government officials and involved in any other criminal acts would be brought to justice.
“From Lahore to Attock, we know who was involved in breaking the law, and we will prosecute them under law,” said Nisar. Nisar also thanked ‘notable personalities’ for their role in bringing the stand-off to a peaceful conclusion.
The interior minister expressed satisfaction with the peaceful conclusion of the sit-in. He said that a notification had been issued for the constitution of the committee headed by the special secretary interior to hold probe into the shortcomings that allowed the protesters reach the D-Chowk. He said the committee would present its report in seven days.