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Garbage litters a greenbelt around the Faizabad Interchange, where protesters from religious parties have been holding a sit-in for over two weeks now. — INP
Garbage litters a greenbelt around the Faizabad Interchange, where protesters from religious parties have been holding a sit-in for over two weeks now. — INP

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: The head of the committee tasked by the government to come up with an amicable solution to the lingering sit-in by a religious group has left the country after submitting his recommendations to the concerned authorities.

Led by Pir Haseenuddin Shah, a committee of leading religious scholars from all schools of thought was constituted on Monday by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

But Mufti Kamran Abbasi, who is a member of Pir Haseenuddin’s staff, told Dawn that the committee chairman had flown to South Africa on Thursday morning and had handed over his proposals to the government for implementation before leaving the country.

The four-member committee also includes Golra Shrine Caretaker Pir Nizamuddin Jami, Sayed Ziaul Haq, Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi and Sahibzada Dr Sajjadur Rehman.

The committee reportedly completed its deliberations and a draft of their suggestions was prepared and handed over to the government, Mufti Abbasi said, adding that the government was delaying its implementation.

Before leaving the country to attend an annual meeting at the Darul Uloom in Pretoria, Pir Hussainuddin also reached out to certain legislators and sought a meeting with them, but he was told they were busy with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) meetings.

Subsequently, the committee head left the country without meeting key government figures, his staffer said, adding that Pir Haseenuddin would return in a month’s time.

Sources said that the committee offered the government the same suggestions that had already been presented by the government to leaders of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah.

Since Nov 8, four rounds of talks have been held to negotiate with the leaders of the group staging a sit-in at Faizabad, whose main demand is the removal of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

Earlier, the government offered to change the portfolio of the law minister, or send him on leave. However, both suggestions were turned down by the sit-in’s leaders.

Sources said that Pir Haseenuddin’s committee suggested that the law minster should be considered innocent until proven guilty. All sides would accept the report of the Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee and further action will be taken once the report’s findings and recommendations are finalised, it suggested.

Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Golra Pir Nizamuddin Jami could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.

Capital’s woes

With the sit-in entering its 17th day, the worries of locals who have to commute between Islamabad and Rawalpindi seem to have multiplied due to a shortage of traffic police officials who can manage the gridlocks afflicting both city’s streets.

Due to the closure of the Islamabad Expressway, commuters are using alternate roads such as Ninth Avenue and Double Road, Kashmir Highway, Peshawar Road, Park Road and Lehtrar Road to move between the two cities. However, the excess traffic on these smaller roads has caused long jams and, as a result, journeys that take minutes are taking hours to complete.

Although Thursday was a relatively peaceful day, with no further clashes being reported between security personnel and the protesters, police picked up around 30 demonstrators from various points around Faizabad.

In Rawalpindi, police have started impounding vehicles carrying food items for the protesters, as part of a fresh strategy to force them to call off the sit-in or disperse peacefully.

A police official told Dawn that so far, police had impounded nine vehicles that were loaded with food items for the protesters. The provisions included, dry milk, Chicken pulao, pulses and bread; but it was yet to be established who is footing the bill for these items.

Despite their efforts, however, police have been unable to cut off the supply of food to the protesters, who are getting cooked meals and other items from different avenues and routes.

“The organizers of the protest have made arrangements for electric generators and now also have helmets to protect themselves during clashes with police,” a police official told Dawn.

He said there were no indications that the protest will be called off before Eid Miladun Nabi celebrations are held on Dec 1, because protesters were planning to hold a Milad programme.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017