KARACHI – Mufti Azam of Pakistan, Prof Mufti Muhammad Muneeb-ur-Rehman, has urged the government to hold talks with the protesters from religious parties, who are staging a sit-in for past two weeks in the capital city.

Muneeb, who is also the current chairman of Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, during a press conference in Karachi also warned the government over a possible use of force against the demonstrators whose sit-in has brought life to a standstill in Islamabad for past several days.

Faizabad – the key interchange between Rawalpindi and Islamabad – has been occupied by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasulallah and Sunni Tehreek for 10 days, causing serious commuting problems for the residents of the twin cities.

A showdown between the government and baton-wielding protesters holding a sit-in at the Faizabad interchange for the past 12 days appears likely as the last appeal made by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal at a press conference on Friday before the 10pm deadline set for the protest leaders to vacate the place for the sake of Islam and Pakistan fell on deaf ears.

“We have information that there are some armed persons as well as a few miscreants among the protesters and that is why their leadership should act responsibly,” the minister told a press conference at the Press Information Department earlier in the night, adding: “We have Islamabad police, FC and Rangers all ready… but I believe that an operation will not be required, as they [protesters] will vacate the place peacefully.”

He rejected the perception that there was a ‘hidden hand’ supporting the protesters and it restricted the government to launch an operation against them.

Earlier, the Islamabad High Court had asked the protesters to call off their sit-in and directed the government to clear the place with the help of police, FC and Rangers, and a compliance report to this effect is due by 10am today (Saturday).

All hospitals in the city have been ordered to cancel doctors and paramedical staff’s leaves and ask them to be present on duty till further instructions.

Nearly 1,000 personnel have been requested from the Punjab Rangers “to perform duty along with police,”.

The district administration has also requisitioned water tankers and fire brigades to prepare for any eventuality.

At least eight ambulances, along with paramedical staff; two fire engines; and three water bowsers would be at the disposal of the district magistrate from Nov 18, according to an official letter.