ISLAMABAD: The federal government might opt for ‘option b’ to disperse the protesters of a sit-in at Faizabad interchange before Eid Milad-un-Nabi as it is running short of options to handle the situation peacefully.
The protesters, who have brought routine life in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi to a standstill for over two weeks, are demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for changing the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause.
The government wants to disperse the protestors before 12th Rabbi-ul-Awwal, which falls on December 1 (Friday), over fears that more public will join the protest to commemorate the birth of Holy Prophet (PBUH), media reported.
The matter was on top of the agenda during the parliamentary party meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the chair, it is further learnt.
However, the meeting remained inconclusive over taking a decisive action.
The PML-N official said party chief Nawaz Sharif would take final decision whether to use force to disperse the protestors after consulting Premier Abbasi.
The PML-N president was scheduled to review the matter on Monday but was advised by his aides to wait till Wednesday (today) as the ruling camp is desperate to reach some kind of agreement with the religious group even though the chances are bleak.
The Sharif postponed his visit to London to deal with the sit-in where protesters are not willing to budge an inch from their demand seeking resignation of the law minister.
The government would mull over using ‘calculated force’ to disperse the protestors from Faizabad ahead of Eid Milad-un-Nabi to prevent public participation in the protests in case there was no headway in dialogue, media reported.
“If a significant number of people show up at the protest site on 12th Rabbi-ul-Awwal, anti-government sentiment will be fuelled, which will be a nightmare for us,” a PML-N senator said, requesting anonymity. “They [protestors] are out to continue the sit-in till Eid Milad-un-Nabi at any cost.”
He said the government was not ready to yield to the protestors’ demands amid a deep-rooted feeling in the ruling camp that the protesters of the religious group entailed political dimensions.
Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, the said group, is a registered political party that contested recent by-elections in NA-120 Lahore and NA-4 Peshawar. “It is all about seeking popularity and cashing in on the general elections,” the politician said.
The key reason the government had so far not resorted to any ground action against the protesters has much to do with opposition from some senior PML-N leaders, media report.
The PML-N leaders, including the party chief’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousaf, PML-N Chairman and Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and Religious Affairs Minister Pir Aminul Hasnat have reportedly cautioned the government that the use of force would be detrimental to the interests of the government and it might aggravate the situation further.
Reportedly, Sharif, PM Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and senior leadership of PML-N Punjab chapter were in favour of a ground action in case the protestors were not willing to budge from their demand.
However, the PML-N leaders opposed acting against the protestors on the grounds that any such step would end up earning notoriety like that in the Model Town tragedy.
On the other hand, senior federal government functionaries argue that ‘calculated’ or ‘restricted’ use of force to disperse the protestors seemed inevitable. “The use of force doesn’t mean bloodshed or bullets. We can achieve the desired results by resorting to lesser grim tactics—like use of water cannons, tear gas, baton-charge and all that,” said an N-Leaguer.
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