ISLAMABAD - The deadlock between the government and the leadership of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah persisted yesterday, with the religious group vowing not to end its sit-in till the removal of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

However, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal in his late-night appearance before media said that talks with the leaders of protesters were underway and its outcome will be clear within a day. This came soon after the minister postponed the decision to use force to disperse the protesters.

With the hectic efforts of Peer of Golra Sharif Syed Ghulam Nizamuddin Jami, who is also one of the custodians of the Golra Sharif shrine, senior leaders of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) and Sunni Tehreek (ST) agreed to come on the negotiation table and both sides [government and protesters] gathered at the residence of senior PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq for talks.

After the first round of negotiations, held in the evening, the TLYR leadership called a meeting of its Shura (council) to decide their next plan of action and said that a formal announcement would be made after the consultative meeting. The second round of meeting was underway while this report was filed.

From the government side, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, State Minister for Religious Affairs Peer Aminul Hasnat and Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz took part in the talks while Sheikh Azhar Hussain Rizvi, Moulana Waheed Anwer, Dr Shafique Amini, Peer Ijaz Ashrifi and Peer Inayatul Haq Shah represented TLYR. Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and Peer Syed Ghulam Nizamuddin Jami, Sajjada Nasheen of Astana-e-Alia Ghosia Mehria Golra Sharif, played the role of the mediators.

Though no one from any side spoke publicly about the results of the first round of talks, official sources said that the TLYR leadership had shown some flexibility and agreed to end the sit-in but on some conditions. On the other hand, the government assured the TLYR leadership that all the cases registered against them during the protest would be withdrawn.

The government, however, ruled out any possibility of the removal of Law Minister Zahid Hamid — the basic demand of the protesters. The government also offered to form a fresh probe committee to ascertain the role of the law minister, if any, in making controversial amendment in the declaration form for electoral candidates regarding the finality of prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH).

The official sources said that the government had persuaded Peer Syed Ghulam Nizamuddin Jami through Peer Aminul Hasnat to contact the leaders of the protesters to convince them to come on the negotiation table. Mr Jami visited the protest site and convinced the TLYR leaders for the talks.

Earlier on Saturday morning, the interior minister in a move to avoid a possible showdown with the protesters, announced to postpone the use of force against the protesters.

After the expiry of Friday night deadline given by Islamabad administration to the protesters to vacate the Faizabad Interchange and the main avenue of Islamabad, the interior minister on Saturday morning issued an order to the capital administration to extend the deadline of operation for 24 hours.

A statement issued by the ministry said the minister had launched his last efforts to get the sit-in end peacefully and therefore extended the deadline of police operation. The minister also appealed to the religious leaders to play their role to resolve the crisis and convince the protesters to end the sit-in.

The public should be saved from bloodshed and distress as a result of the protest in the name of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH),” he said.

Ahsan Iqbal said that it was the legal requirement to implement the order of the Islamabad High Court, which on Friday told the capital administration and police to clear Faizabad Interchange of protesters within 24 hours – even with the assistance from Rangers and FC if required.

He said that no one could amend the law regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwat (PBUH) and the Parliament has already restored the law to its original form. “[Therefore] there is no excuse for the sit-in now.”

The minister said that the result of stubbornness would only affect the atmosphere of Jashn-e-Eid Miladun Nabi — the celebrations on the birthday of the last Prophet (PBUH). He said that it was the right of the nation to celebrate Eid Miladun Nabi with full zeal in an atmosphere of peace.