Pakistan leadership decides to negotiate with protesters

Special Pakistan leadership decides to negotiate with protesters
Pakistani police fire tear gas during clashes with protesters at Faizabad junction in Islamabad on November 25, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 November 2017

Pakistan leadership decides to negotiate with protesters

Pakistan leadership decides to negotiate with protesters

ISLAMABAD: At a high-level meeting on Sunday, Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership decided to start negotiations with protesters who have been camped out at Islamabad’s Faizabad intersection for the past three weeks

The protesters are demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after a phrase saying Mohammed is the last prophet in Islam was dropped from the text of a parliamentary bill. Hamid apologized and said it was a clerical error that was later corrected.

On Saturday, dozens of demonstrators broke into his residence in central Punjab province; he and his family were not in the building.

Sunday’s meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and discussed security and law and order.

Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal were among the attendees.

At the meeting, it was decided that the army will be available to provide security to sensitive sites in the capital, but will not intervene in dislodging the protest sit-in, Arab News learned.

On Sunday morning, Pakistan Rangers were deployed at Faizabad intersection, a key highway in the capital, to help enforce law and order. 

Protesters clashed with police on the outskirts of Islamabad and other parts of the country, on the second day of a government operation to dislodge a sit-in by far-right activists.

TV channels and social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, have been blocked since Saturday.

More than 200 people were injured when security forces tried to disperse protesters at the Faizabad intersection early Saturday. The federal government has called for troops to be deployed in Islamabad. 

The army said the police have not been “optimally utilized” while dealing with protesters from the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) party — a prerequisite before calling in the military.

Punjab’s Education Minister Rana Mashhood on Sunday said all educational institutions in the province will remain closed for two days due to the ongoing protests. Educational institutions in the capital will also be closed on Monday and Tuesday. 

Khizer Hayar, a resident of Islamabad, told Arab News: “We don’t know what’s happening. It’s chaos. I was scheduled to attend a family event outside Islamabad, but I saw on state-run TV that the motorway is closed.”

The chairman of Pakistan’s Ulema Council, Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, told Arab News: “There’s a need to revive efforts for a peaceful resolution on the issue.”