ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday gave the capital administration and police 24 hours to clear Faizabad Interchange of protesters.

To evict demonstrators from the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, the court asked the deputy commissioner to seek assistance from the Frontier Constabulary and Rangers.

“The district magistrate has the authority under the law to seek assistance of FC and Rangers to enforce the writ of the state, if circumstances so demand. This task must be completed by [Saturday],” the order said.

The directions were issued during the hearing of a petition filed by local residents.

In his order, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said: “I observe with great concern that [the] district administration not only failed to perform its duty as was required, rather from the mannerism it appears that sit-in has been facilitated to put the country into a crisis situation.”

State minister claims protest leaders broke promise not to prolong sit-in; commissioner reveals some demonstrators are armed

He wondered why instead of confining the protest to the specified area, the district administration had tolerated a sit-in at the busiest intersection between the twin cities.

He observed that the court had specified the “Democracy Park and Speech Corner”, or the Shakarparian Parade Ground, as the appropriate place for such congregations, and asked why the district administration had even allowed the protesters to enter Islamabad’s territory.

A day earlier, the same court had asked petitioners from the Tehrik-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah to call off the sit-in.

But on Friday, Justice Siddiqui observed: “Yesterday’s order was passed with [the expectation] that as most of the demands of protesters have already been met by the parliament… showing grace protestors will vacate Faizabad… but it is so unfortunate that instead of obeying direction of the court, leadership of protestors/sit-in showed defiance and also used abusive language, which is unprecedented.”

Expressing disappointment, the order observed: “It is a mystery that protesters have been sitting for the last 10 days and district administration is acting like a spectator.”

“Freedom of expression or free movement does not mean that other citizen and inhabitants of twin cities may be left at the mercy of these protestors,” the court order read.

It reminded the district administration that “the district magistrate had the authority under the law to ensure the enforcement of government writ and take action… against those who take law into their own hands.”

During the hearing, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Mushtaq Ahmed informed the court that the protestors were equipped with stones, and that some of them even have weapons.

Justice Siddiqui directed the deputy commissioner to clear the Faizabad Interchange by Saturday morning and put off further proceedings until Nov 20.

On next date of hearing, the court would also take up the petition of lawyer Rana Abdul Qayyum, who was humiliated at the hands of the protesters. A retired chief warrants officer (CWO) from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Qayyum was allegedly manhandled, beaten up, briefly detained and deprived of cash by the protestors.

Senate body

The issue also reverberated in Friday’s meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, where State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry claimed that the protesters had deceived the government and did not fulfill their promise to leave.

“After negotiations with the Punjab government, the protesters’ leadership assured us before leaving Lahore that they will not enter the federal capital and would leave after offering prayer [at Faizabad].

“But after they got there, they deviated from their promise, and the general public has been suffering ever since,” Mr Chaudhry said.

The minister said the government did not want bloodshed, which was why action had not been taken against the protesters so far.

“We also constituted committees headed by Raja Zafarul Haq and other ministers, but the protesters did not move. Around 400 persons have been arrested from different areas of Punjab, but people from AJK, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi are also participating in the protest,” he said.

“There are around 3,000 to 6,000 persons in the protest. We have also contacted custodians of shrines in Rawalpindi and Punjab to convince the protesters to leave. I hope that the protesters will leave soon,” the chief commissioner told the committee.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khalid Khattak said that as many as 15 cases had been registered against the protesters.

Committee Chairman Rehman Malik directed the government to adopt all legal ways and means to remove the protesters from Faizabad.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2017

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