ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday said the government would use all possible means to persuade the religious groups holding a sit-in at Faizabad to shift to Parade Avenue or any other place.

“Otherwise we will have no option but to go for the administrative solution as the government cannot allow any group to restrict the fundamental rights of the citizens. However, the protesters want a dead body or ‘Shaheed’ to achieve their goal,” he told Dawn.

The activists and supporters of Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and Sunni Tehreek have blocked Faizabad Interchange for the last five days demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid. On the other hand, the citizens are suffering hardship due to the blockade of the roads.

Mohammad Ali, a resident of Zone V, said he had been facing hardship since the sit-in started on Wednesday.

Ahsan Iqbal says govt cannot allow any group to restrict fundamental rights of citizens

“Last week, I decided not to send my children to school but their exams are going to start from Monday. As the exams are held under the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), a large number of parents will have to send their children to schools putting further pressure on the traffic,” he said.

“I am sure that it will take hours to drop and bring the children back from the school. I demand the government take immediate action and move the protesters to the Parade Avenue.

“The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has already ruled that protests and sit-ins should be held only at the Parade Avenue,” he said.

Javed Ahmed, another resident of the area, said the blockade of Islamabad Expressway because of frequent protests and VIP movements had become a routine.

“The residents of Zone V have become sick of the frequent road closures. Seeing no end to the issue, a large number of the residents have shifted to the urban area of Islamabad,” he said.

Meanwhile, mobile phone services remained blocked near Faizabad due to which residents of the nearby areas, including I-8, faced difficulties.

A police official told Dawn that it was a political issue and should be addressed at the political level.

“Though we can arrest the protesters and open the interchange within half an hour, in the end the responsibility (for any mishap) will be put on the police. So it will be better if the government/Ministry of Interior takes a decision,” he said.

The interior minister said talks had been going on with the protesters for the last many days. The government is well aware that the fundamental rights of the citizens have been restricted because of the sit-in.

“Not only the protesters have been annoying the residents and commuters, on Saturday they even held four police officials who were got released after negotiations with the leaders of the protesters. We have registered a number of cases against the protesters and their leadership,” he said.

“We will try again to move the protesters somewhere else but if they resist we will use the administrative means,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2017

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