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SC takes notice of Islamabad sit-in, inquires about steps taken for freedom of movement

Updated November 21, 2017


Supporters of a radical religious party participate in a sit-in protest near the capital on Monday.— AP
Supporters of a radical religious party participate in a sit-in protest near the capital on Monday.— AP

The Supreme Court on Tuesday took notice of the sit-in that has paralysed the capital city for a fortnight.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa took the notice of the protracted protest while hearing a case.

The judge directed the defence and interior secretaries to submit a detailed report in this regard by Thursday, November 23.

Justice Isa during the hearing said Article 15 of the Constitution allows freedom of movement to the public. He asked government authorities to explain what steps have been taken to protect public's basic rights.

The court also issued notices to the inspectors-general of Islamabad and Punjab, the attorney general and advocate generals of Islamabad and Punjab, seeking their replies by Thursday.

The government is under mounting pressure to end the Faizabad protest, and the Islamabad High Court on Monday initiated contempt proceedings against top officials of the Islamabad administration by issuing them show cause notices.

The high court has given a deadline of November 23 to the government to end the sit-in.

Daily life in the capital has been disrupted for nearly two weeks by protesters belonging to religious parties — including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) — who are calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017. The amendment had earlier been deemed a 'clerical error' and has already been rectified.

The protesters had occupied the Faizabad Bridge which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad through the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road, both of which are the busiest roads in the twin cities.

The government on Monday scrambled to secure the support of religious leaders and ulema from across the political spectrum in a bid to negotiate a peaceful end to the sit-in.

A meeting of the clerics and scholars, which was also attended by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Mohammad Yousuf, resolved to end the protest in a peaceful manner.

However, a meeting between representatives of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah and government ministers held at Punjab House was unable to make any breakthrough, as the protesters would not budge from their demand for the law minister’s resignation.

IHC seeks bar's mediation

Earlier on Tuesday, IHC's Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui sought mediation of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) in convincing the protesters to end the sit-in.

While addressing IHCBA members that he had summoned, including secretary Advocate Arbab Alam Abbasi and joint secretary Advocate Asif Tamboli, the judge directed the bar members to inform the protesters about the high court's order regarding the sit-in.

"Perhaps the country could be saved from chaos due to your efforts," he said while addressing the bar members.

However, IHCBA leaders changed the plan to meet protest leaders after the Supreme Court took notice of the issue.

"It is not appropriate for us to visit [the protesters] after SC's notice," bar secretary Abbasi said.

Abbasi said the bar had received the message from the high court not to visit the sit-in leaders after notice was taken by the top court.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah has suggested that the government should talk to the military to find a way to end the sit-in.

With additional reporting by Muhammad Bilal in Islamabad.