Why Religious Protesters in Islamabad Are Up in Arms Against Govt

Protesters are demanding the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid for changes made in the Elections Act 2017.

2 min read
Protesters shout slogans during a sit-in protest near  Islamabad on Monday, 20 November. 

Protesters from religious groups have been blocking the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad since 8 November, and the police along with paramilitary forces has launched a crackdown against them, Dawn reported.

According to another report by Dawn, all private television channels in Islamabad have been banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for violating the rules and covering the security operation live.

What Triggered the Protests

Religious groups Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i- Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) have been blocking the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road at Faizabad interchange that connects Islamabad with its only airport and the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The protests, which have disrupted the daily lives of the population, are to demand the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid.

The protesters want him to resign due to the changes made in Khatm-i-Nabuwwat or ‘finality of prophethood oath’ in the Elections Act 2017 passed in September. The change, called a clerical error by the government, was fixed and an amended act was passed.

The government also offered to send the law minister on leave or change his portfolio but the protesters rejected it and refused to disperse until the minister was removed.

Government Asked to Take Action

The Supreme Court in Pakistan had on 21 November taken notice of the protests, and sent notices to the secretaries of the interior and defence ministries, IGs of Islamabad and Punjab and the attorney general, Geo TV reported.

According to the report, the apex court demanded a report on what measures were taken by the government to protect the rights of the people.

On 20 November, the Islamabad High Court expressed its displeasure at government’s inability to end the protests, and asked it to crackdown on the protesters who’ve made life difficult for the people of the city, by closing the important commuting routes.

AFP reported the HC as saying that it will hold officials in contempt if they didn’t end the protests.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, on 20 November, had asked for more time to end the siege. Iqbal was summoned by Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Siddiqui for failing to implement orders on Friday to clear the roads within 24 hours.

Iqbal had requested for more time to deal with the issue peacefully.

The court observed that it was the responsibility of the State to ensure rights of common citizens and protesters were causing serious problems for students, patients and others.

Iqbal told media after the hearing that the court orders would be implemented and the protesters removed before the deadline set by the court. He said he had ordered the police to delay operation to give talks with clerics another chance to succeed.

According to Geo TV, the government also formed a committee under senior cleric Pir Haseenuddin Shah to hold talks with the protesters and come up with a solution.

(With inputs from GeoTV, AFP and PTI.)

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