- Govt “fails” to convince PDM chief Maulana Fazl to change sit-in venue.
- Fazl fully empowered to decide about venue of the protest: Sanaullah.
- “PDM chief will take final decision about changing venue by morning.”
Despite two rounds of meetings, the federal government’s two-member team failed to convince Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) President Maulana Fazlur Rehman to change the venue of the sit-in and announced that a new place of protest gathering would be decided by Monday morning (today) with the consultation of the head of all allied parties.
The ruling PDM had announced staging a protest sit-in outside the Supreme Court against Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial for the judiciary’s “undue facilitation” to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.
Earlier on Sunday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led federal government requested the PDM chief to change the venue of the protest sit-in from outside the Supreme Court to D-Chowk in Islamabad amid security concerns.
Addressing the media following the last round of meetings with Maulana Fazl late Sunday in Islamabad, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the PDM chief was fully empowered to decide about the venue of the protest sit-in and added that the former would take the final decision in this regard by morning in consultation with the heads of all allied parties of the ruling alliance.
“Tomorrow’s [Monday] sit-in will be peaceful and a single pot will not be broken,” he added.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri among others were also present on the occasion.
Earlier, Sanaullah expressed concerns over the gathering of a “large number of protesters” in the red zone area in the federal capital.
He along with the finance minister also held two rounds of meetings with Fazl to convince him to change the venue of the protest sit-in.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad after a first round of meetings, the interior minister said the PDM chief had been requested to change the venue of the protest as an intelligence report indicated that staging the protest in the red zone or Constitutional Avenue area of the federal capital could create a tense situation.
The agencies have assessed that protesters in large number are intending to attend the PDM protest and they are angry over “Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial due to the decisions being taken by the three-member bench” of the apex court, he said.
The security czar was referring to the ongoing judiciary-executive standoff wherein the ruling PDM accused CJP Bandial and other two judges of the apex court of facilitating Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan.
“We fear that if this protest takes place in the red zone area [then] it will be difficult for the administration to handle the situation,” he remarked.
Following the first round of huddles, the PDM set aside the government’s request saying that convoys from all over the country have left for Islamabad.
“We have announced [sit-in] and now the decision will be made in people’s court tomorrow [Monday],” he remarked.
However, Fazl had assured the ministers that the protest would remain “peaceful”.
The protest sit-in coincides with the hearing of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) plea asking the apex court to revisit its order of holding elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14.
The petition will be heard a day after the court-ordered election deadline lapses.
Fazl, in a video message released on Saturday, said that the sit-in would be staged against the protection being given by a three-member bench of the apex court and Islamabad High Court to a “criminal”.