The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday ordered the capital administration to take all necessary steps to clear the Faizabad Interchange by tomorrow.
Daily life in the capital over the past week or so has been disrupted by protesters camped at the interchange. They belong to various 'religious' parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST), and are calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017 ─ which had earlier been deemed a 'clerical error' and restored to its original form on Thursday, November 16.
The TLY had occupied the Faizabad Bridge which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad through the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road, both of which are the busiest thoroughfares in the twin cities.
IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who issued the clearance order, had been hearing a petition filed by citizen Abdul Qayyum. Islamabad Deputy Commissioner retired captain Mushtaq and the deputy inspector general operations were also present in court today.
Citing the difficulties faced by citizens due to blockage of the major artery, the court ordered the capital administration to ensure the dispersal of protesters, whether through peaceful means or by the use of force.
The court also permitted the capital administration to exercise their authority to request the deployment of the Punjab Rangers or the Frontier Constabulary, if needed.
Justice Siddiqui, in passing the order, had observed that Islam does not permit any harm coming to women, children or the elderly, even in times of war.
The judge — who is known for his religious zeal — said that as the protesters' demands had already been accepted by the parliament and executives, they had no more reason to continue protesting.
The DC had told the court that the number of protesters, currently between 1,800 to 2,000, may increase after Friday prayers.
The protesters had gathered rocks to defend themselves, he said, adding that they also possessed 10 to 12 weapons.
He noted that at least three to four hours would be necessary to clear the area, and that it would get dark quickly after Friday prayers. He said conducting an operation in the dark may not be responsible.
Justice Siddiqui lamented that the administration had been unsuccessful in exercising its authority to end the protest. He pointed out that there is already a designated area for people to register their protests in the capital ─ the Democracy and Speech Corner.
Any citizen who wishes to exercise their right to freedom of speech must not inconvenience other citizens, the court said.
Fed up with the public response in the twin cities, the cold response from the federal government, and intermittent spells of rain which started Tuesday, the protesting clerics had taken to petitioning the IHC for "execution" of their demands.
Their earlier demands, most of which have been taken back now, included the removal of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Asiya Bibi’s execution, dismissal of cases against religious leaders, and the removal of clerics from the Fourth Schedule.
IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on Thursday heard a petition submitted by the TLY asking for a report compiled by a PML-N committee probing the controversial amendment to the oath to be made public so that "the culprits so determined therein, may very kindly be proceed against under the relevant laws."
The court, however, said a similar petition had already been filed in the IHC and advised the TLY to end its protest as the public was being inconvenienced by the sit-in.
Earlier this week, Justice Siddiqui, while hearing a petition submitted by Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat supporter Allah Wasaya against the same issue, ordered to reverse in the Elections Act 2017 all amendments in sections pertaining to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath.