The government on Saturday failed to make any headway in negotiations with leaders of Sunni Tehreek and Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) as the protesters stuck to their demand of Law Minister Zahid Hamid's resignation. Talks between representatives of both the sides were held at the residence of PML-N Senator Raja Zafar-ul-Haq. The government failed to convince the representatives of the protesters to end their sit-in.
The protesters led by religious cleric and Islamist political party head Khadim Hussain Rizvi have been staging a sit-in for nearly two weeks at Faizabad Interchange, the main gateway to Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The representatives of the protesters, Dr Shafiq Ameeni, Sheikh Azhar and Pir Ijaz Sherani, presented their demands to the government representatives including Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar during the negotiations.
The delegation returned to the protesting site and briefed the leaders about the outcome of the negotiations. After detailed discussions, the leaders of the protesters decided to continue their protest until the law minister's resignation.
The delegation representing the protesters was negotiating again with representatives of the government at the residence of the PML-N senator Raja Zafarul Haq at the time of filing of this report.
During the negotiations between both the sides, a cleric from Golra Sharif shrine Ghulamuddin Jami mediated in talks.
State Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Hasnat told media after the negotiations that talks with the representatives of the leaders were held in a cordial environment, expressing his hope that the issue would be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
He said that the government is fully aware of its responsibilities and would try to resolve the issue by night (Sunday night).
Earlier, Islamabad High Court directed the government to disperse protesters before 10:00am on Saturday, but the government failed to meet the deadline. Later, the government also extended the deadline to another 24 hours to resolve the issue through dialogue.
The government has termed the amendments in the electoral laws as 'clerical mistake', but the protesters say that it should expose those who omitted the clauses in the Elections Act 2017 relating to Khatam-e-Nabuwat.
The National Assembly and Senate have, however, amended the Elections Act to restore the declaration for lawmakers and status of Ahmadis in its original form.
Thousands of law enforcement personnel in their riot gears remained alert on Saturday, waiting for the government's directives to disperse the protesters through use of force.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2017