Days of dread and dark are over?
ISLAMABAD – The leadership of Islamabad sit-in on Monday announced to call off their 22-day-long protest after the government gave in to their demands, including resignation of Zahid Hamid as federal law minister.
This came after army brokered an agreement between the embattled civilian government and a religious pressure group, drawing a strong ire of the Islamabad High Court over substance of the deal and army’s role in it.
Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR), along with a couple of other religious organisations, had been staging a protest sit-in over the issue of changing the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat [finality of prophethood] related clauses in electoral oath.
The blocking of the traffic at the Faizabad Interchange, the main connecting point between Islamabad and Rawalpindi, made the people of twin cities suffer for over three weeks.
There came deadly violence when law enforcement agencies made a botched try on the weekend to disperse the anti-blasphemy protesters, sparking demonstrations across the whole nation.
Many people lost their lives in the twin cities during the sit-in — at least six on Saturday, the day of police operation, while many more were injured in the clashes between police and protesters.
Monday’s agreement bore the signatures of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza, TLYR leaders Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Peer Muhammad Afzal Qadri and Muhammad Waheed Noor, and Maj-Gen Faiz Hameed – who facilitated the agreement.
Protest leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi called off the sit-in after media reported minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation early Monday.
TLYR chief said he had military assurances that the demands of his group would be met.
“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” he told a press conference amid a crowd of around 2,500 demonstrators.
He also said they were abandoning plans to issue a fatwa against Hamid and called for roads and schools to be reopened.
Rizvi also ordered his followers across the country to end the sit-ins and go home. He said the protesters will depart from the sit-in venue within 12 hours of the implementation of the agreement reached with the government.
TLYR chief alleged that propaganda was carried out against his group to give the impression that they had been sent by someone to Islamabad.
“The army chief and his representative Maj-Gen Faiz Hameed acted as guarantors for the agreement,” Rizvi said.
Hours after the Faizabad sit-in was called off, the authorities began releasing protesters arrested during the operation.
Punjab Rangers Director-General Maj-Gen Azhar Naveed oversaw the release of protesters and handed over Rs1,000 each to the released protesters as a ‘fare for their travel cost’. Twenty-five protesters were released till Monday noon, according to the authorities.
1 Law Minister Zahid Hamid would be sacked from his position immediately.
2 The TLYR will issue no fatwa [religious decree] of any kind against the outgoing minister.
3 The report prepared by the Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee will be made public within 30 days.
4 Those responsible for the changes in the election oath will be acted against under the law.
5 All protesters arrested between Nov 6 and till the end of the sit-in from across the country will be released within three days. Cases registered against them and the house arrests imposed on them will be ended.
6 An inquiry board will be constituted to probe and decide what action to be taken against the government and administration officials over the operation conducted by security forces against the protesters. The inquiry will be completed within 30 days and action will be taken against those found responsible.
7 The federal and provincial governments will determine and compensate for the loss of government and private property incurred during the protest.
8 The points already agreed to, concerning the government of Punjab will be fully implemented.
The document ends by crediting Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and his representative team for their special efforts that led to the agreement.
Packing of bags
After the announcement of the TLYR leaders, the protesters started packing up their belongings to leave and police started removing containers placed around the protest site.
The sanitation workers started cleaning the venue strewn with litter and garbage. Security forces were performing duty at the protest site till the filing of this report.