Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry informed the Senate on Wednesday that the government had been forced to negotiate with protesters of the Faizabad sit-in because it had been left alone in the matter.
Giving his comments on an adjournment motion about the Faizabad sit-in, Chaudhry said the Elections Act 2017 had been prepared by all parliamentarians, but only the government was targeted for the change in the Khatm-i-Naboowat oath.
He said no political party had taken the stance that the oath change was a collective mistake.
The fighting that spilled onto the streets following the sit-in could have huge consequences, Chaudhry said, adding that the government had decided to act against the protesters to comply with court orders and after receiving notice for contempt of court.
“This [Faizabad] sit-in ended, but it can be said that the end [of the protest] was not exemplary,” he said.
Giving background of the sit-in, the minister said the first sit-in was staged in Pakistan in 2012. He said the sit-in had ended after an agreement with the protesters and the opposition had supported the government at the time.
A sit-in was staged again in 2014, and the government held talks with the protesters. This sit-in ended after 126 days because all opposition parties had thrown their weight behind the government, Chaudhry said.
Due to such agreements, the minister said, government forces are unable to take any action and become demoralised. Political leaders come and get suspects freed from prison vans, he said.
Chaudhry said no political party had owned up to the change in the election oath, and the only faint voice of support had come from PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, who said the entire parliament is responsible for the error.
He said the government had acted against the protesters on court orders, but security forces neither had arms nor authority during the operation. As a result, the protests spread all over the country.
The clerics betrayed the country in the name of shariat and sunnat, Chaudhry said.
In an apparent reference to the military, the minister said the Faizabad protesters “continued receiving support from Pindi”. During an in-camera session of the Senate, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had reportedly denied the alleged involvement of the military in the sit-in.
“The COAS said he will resign if the army’s involvement is proved in Faizabad protests,” said Senator Nihal Hashmi on Tuesday.
Chaudhry suggested that the parliament should develop a procedure to deal with such protests, adding that the government is developing an anti-riot force for the purpose.
After the weeks-long protest that had virtually paralysed the capital, the government and leaders of Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) had reached an agreement on November 26 in which the former conceded to the latter’s demands — including dropping all the cases against the protesters.