Govt gears up for crackdown on protesters in Red Zone
ISLAMABAD: The government has begun its first phase of an operation to clear the federal capital's Red Zone of demonstrators from different religious gathered for a protest sit-in near parliament, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.
According to officials in the Interior Ministry, a large number police and paramilitary personnel, who gathered around the protesters and had cordoned them off, have started advancing towards the demonstrators.
Protesters will be removed from D-Chowk in the second phase of the operation, the Interior Ministry said.
Police and paramilitary were wearing riot gear and were armed with tear gas equipment for any situation which may arise in case protesters refuse to disperse peacefully.
According to latest details, protest leaders Sarwat Ijaz Qadri and Asif Jalali have been taken for another round of talks to Punjab House, where Additional Deputy
Commissioner Abdul Sattar Esani is also present.
"We will hopefully give you some good news in half an hour," Shah Owais Noorani, who is negotiating with protesters for the government, told media in Islamabad. Noorani said that they would not support an operation at any cost.
Sources told that the government has now given a deadline of 6:30PM for the protesters to vacate the area. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is also expected to hold a press conference at the same time to take the nation into confidence over the matter.
On Sunday, the large number of protesters had set fires and clashed with police near parliament to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
The protesters had since camped near D-Chowk, a high-security zone in Islamabad close to where parliament, all government buildings and foreign embassies are located.
Government representatives are currently engaged in negotiations with the protesters in an attempt to break up the protesters peacefully and clear the Red Zone without the use of any violence.
Earlier today, the government had given the protesters a final deadline to vacate the Red Zone peacefully by today.
According to sources, some of the leaders at the protest have agreed to empty the area today, while the administration is trying to woo other leaders.
In any case, the government claims that if the protesters do not leave the area, all preparations to clear the area have been made.
At a high level meeting held earlier the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed that the protest should end 'amicably' today. The session was attended by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar.
The PM was told that the government’s first priority is to resolve the issue peacefully.
The PM was briefed that government reacted with patience and did not even block the food being supplied to the protesters. He was told that the additional forces were brought in the Red Zone for the protection of public property and government institutions.
It is expected that Interior Minisiter Chaudhry Nisar will hold a meeting with the administration to solve the issue today.
Thousands of supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed for killing Governor Punjab Salman Taseer in 2011, have held the capital’s Red Zone under siege for the fourth day in a row.
The protesters marched to the Red Zone after offering prayers for Qadri at Rawalpindi on Sunday, a month after he was hanged to death.
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