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Ahsan Iqbal makes last-ditch appeal to Islamabad protesters to end sit-in


As the clock runs out on the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) deadline to the district administration to clear the Faizabad Interchange of a sit-in of religious parties, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday made a last-ditch appeal to the protesters to end their dharna.

Iqbal, while addressing a press conference, reiterated the government’s desire to end the deadlock through dialogue rather than by means of force. He observed that the sit-in was not being held for political reasons, but because of the religious sentiments of the protesters.

Reports claimed that during marathon meetings between a ministerial-level government team and protest leaders on Saturday, the government had offered the leaders that all cases registered against them would be withdrawn and a committee would be appointed to look into claims that Law Minister Zahid Hamid was behind the now-withdrawn controversial change into the Khatm-i-Nubuwat declaration for electoral candidates.

However, Iqbal had rejected the protesters demand for the law minister’s resignation, saying that Hamid could not be asked to resign without solid evidence against him.

Iqbal reiterated that compliance with the IHC order to remove the protesters by Sunday [today] was a legal requirement, but added that he had requested the court specially for an extension in the deadline in order to reach a peaceful resolution to the deadlock.

“We agreed to the suggestions they had, and I hope the protesters and their representatives will also reach an agreement so the issue can be resolved and people’s lives can return to normal. If all reservations have been dispelled and the law has been reversed, there is no more justification for the sit-in,” he said.

“The pressure on us is increasing, and the court has also given us an order [to end the sit-in],” he said. “The government does not want any clashes.”

People’s daily lives, children’s academics and businesses have all been affected by the 14-day long protest, Iqbal said.

He said that protesters should congratulate the government for the historic work of restoring a law that had lapsed in 2002 and now, the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat issue had been settled once and for all.

The interior minister said that in the next few days, the nation would be celebrating Eid Miladun Nabi and, therefore, the protesters should ensure that no tense situation was created during these days.

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