ISLAMABAD: Some veteran PML-N leaders are opposed to the use of force against protesters of a religious group calling for a federal minister to resign over changes in the Khatm-e-
Nabuwwat clause from the previous Election Bill.
This is why the government has avoided action to evict the protesters, The Express Tribune has learnt. The sit-in has lasted for the past two weeks, partially paralysing civic life in parts of
the twin cities.
PML-N leaders, including the party chief Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousaf, Chairman PML-N and Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and Religious Affairs Minister of State Pir Aminul Hasnat warned the
government against the use of force, saying that it might aggravate the situation, informed quarters in the party said.
There are reports suggesting that the PML-N chief, Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and other leaders of the PML-N Punjab are in favour of a decisive action if protesters did not back down from their demands — Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation and publication of the inquiry report into the changes in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause.
But leaders who oppose acting against protesters believe such a step would do nothing but tarnish the government’s image just like the Model Town incident. “We realise that using force in such circumstances often get out of hand just like it happened in the Model Town in Lahore that left so many people dead. Years ago, Musharraf resorted to the Lal Masjid operation which backfired in the most horrible manner. We can’t take the risk because the issue has religious dimensions,” said one of the PML-N leaders opposed to using force, requesting anonymity.
A senior federal government functionary argued that ‘calculated’ or ‘restricted’ use of
force to disperse protesters seemed inevitable. “The use of force does not (always) mean bloodshed or bullets. We can achieve the desired results by resorting to less violent
tactics such as the use of water cannons, tear-gas, baton-charging and all that,” said an N-League lawmaker who also wished not to be named.
“In 2014, we witnessed sit-ins and the calculated use of force kept protesters from
occupying Parliament, state-run buildings and related installations. If there is no other option, this has to be applied — we are running out of time — there’s a court order and there’s too much pressure,” he said.
Clear Faizabad, Islamabad admin told. The source said that the matter would be given a final review by the PML-N chief, PM and other top N-leaguers today (Monday) and if leaders of the religious group are not ready to back down, plans would have been chalked out to use force.
“Something needs to be done—the twin cities cannot be left at the mercy of troublemakers,” the insider said.
On Sunday, former PM Sharif was in Abbottabad while PM Abbasi was in Karachi. Both of them are expected back in the federal capital today (Monday).
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Zafarul Haq said the government was trying to avoid the occurrence of any untoward incident and wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. Asked if he was opposed to the use of force, Haq said, “Of course, nobody likes violence. This is a sensitive issue and we are reviewing the situation in case the deadlock persists — but we hope that the matter will be resolved.”