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Friday, 17 November 2017

IHC orders local admin to clear Islamabad of protesters by tomorrow

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) took notice on Friday of the non-implementation of its earlier orders directing the dislodging of the protest sit-in at Faizabad Interchange. 
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui directed the authorities to vacate the key route from the protesters by 10 am Saturday (tomorrow), GEO TV reported.
Supporters of religious parties have occupied the key route of the capital for over a week as part of their protest against the government over the change of a religious clause in the Constitution.
On Thursday, the court had ordered the protesters to disperse but they ignored the direction and have continued with their demonstration. 
Sources said the sit-in will swell today owing to the congregation of people for the Friday prayers. 

Today, having summoned officials of the capital administration, Justice Siddiqui ordered the police to take the aid of Frontier Constabulary (FC) and Rangers if it has to and clear the site through peaceful or non-peaceful means.

A commuter tries to break a blockade related to the ongoing protest. Photo: AFP
A commuter tries to break a blockade related to the ongoing protest. Photo: AFP

The court wanted the action to be taken today but the deputy commissioner asked for time as preparations will take "three to four hours". He added that the protesters are carrying weapons and predicted their strength to be around 2,000, with an increase witnessed on Fridays.
Justice Siddiqui maintained that the administration failed to play its due role in resolving the crisis and merely watched the spectacle unfold as a ‘cricket spectator’. 
He said that in the name of freedom of assembly, one cannot usurp the rights of an entire city.
Following Friday's court order, the district administration called a meeting in which it decided to give the protesters a 'last chance'. 
It was decided that the protesters will be given until 10 pm tonight to disperse on their own. In case of a refusal, the government has put on alert the police as well as paramilitary forces.   
Meanwhile, earlier, a district magistrate, in a letter to the organizers of the protest, had stated that the administration will now be compelled to use strict action as the continuance of the sit-in will be considered contempt of court.
Two religious parties have been camped at the key route linking Islamabad and Rawalpindi for nearly two weeks in protest against the government's change, and then reversal, of the finality of Prophethood oath for lawmakers when it passed the Elections Act, 2017 last month. 
They have demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
On Thursday, hearing the petition filed by Maulana Allah Wasaya, a member of the protesting group, against the amendments to the clauses related to the finality of Prophethood in the Elections Act, 2017, Justice Siddiqui remarked that the petition will be taken up on the condition of ending the sit-in.
He had directed the petitioner's counsel to abide by the law and end the sit-in so the public's miseries can end. The judge observed further that the young, elderly, employees, and students are being adversely affected due to the protest.
In a written order issued later, the judge asked the government why it failed to control the situation and allow the protesters to occupy Faizabad Interchange instead of directing them to the designated venue for protests — Parade Ground.
The Islamabad police chief and chief commissioner, as well as an interior ministry official, were summoned in person at the next hearing.

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