The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued a show-cause notice for contempt of court to Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal over his failure to take steps ordered by the court to end the sit-in that has created a logistical mess in the capital for the past 17 days.
The court has inquired in the notice under which authority the minister did not take action against the protesters despite clear orders issued by the court.
The court issued the notice while hearing two applications filed by residents about the disturbances caused by the protracted sit-in.
The interior secretary had represented the interior ministry before the court on Friday. The IHC judge instead ordered the interior minister to appear in person on November 27.
When the district attorney general requested Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui to withdraw the show-cause notice, the judge responded: "Are you a servant of the [interior] minister or the federation?"
During the hearing, the judge remarked that the impression should end that agencies are backing the sit-in at Faizabad.
He said the court was not suggesting that the authorities should spray bullets on the protesters; instead, the participants of the sit-in could be dispersed using other options, such as tear gas.
The judge also ordered the government to submit the report of a committee led by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq on the amendment made in election laws by November 27, instead of the previously given date of November 29.
Justice Siddiqui further directed that if a person has been named in the committee's report as being responsible for the change in the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat declaration, their name should be put on the Exit Control List.
Justice Siddiqui also ordered the director general of the Intelligence Bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sector commander to appear in person before the court on November 27.
The high court had given a deadline of November 23 to the government to end the sit-in; however, the protest has continued, entering its 18th day on Friday.
Declaring that the state would never surrender to the organisers of the Faizabad sit-in, Iqbal on Thursday had said that the basic objective behind this long-drawn episode was to gain voters’ confidence ahead of the next elections.
He had said that the government had two options: to disperse the protesters by using force or to address the issue through dialogue, which is still continuing on different levels.
'Bullets not necessary to disperse protesters'
Justice Siddiqui's remark that the Faizabad protesters can be dispersed without the use of bullets is reflected in an order passed by the Supreme Court a day earlier.
"Whilst avoiding the loss of life is indeed commendable, but it does not follow that protesters can only be removed by firing upon them," the apex court observed in a copy of its six-page order on the matter acquired by DawnNews.
The order suggested that "baton-wielding or even unarmed law enforcement personnel, if they are sufficient in numbers, can undertake such an exercise."
The apex court noted in the order that the protesters appear to be "well-rested, well-fed, bathed and clothed in clean clothes." It also observed that the participants have access to broadcast paraphernalia.
"It, therefore, appears that they are going about freely under the noses of the police and the other law enforcement agencies," the order stated.
In its order, the apex court directed the government to take measures against the use of " filthy-abusive language" by the protesters. The government was asked to report the matter to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
Furthermore, the court, which expressed its displeasure yesterday over reports on the protest shared by the capital police, Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau, asked the institutions to file additional reports on the matter.
Daily life in the capital has been disrupted 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 have 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 had 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.
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 had refused to budge from their demand for the law minister’s resignation.