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SC orders PTI, PAT to leave Constitution Avenue

Posted on Aug 25 2014 | IANS

Islamabad, Aug 25 : The Supreme Court of Pakistan Monday ordered two parties leading anti-government sit-in protests in front of the apex court to clear out of Islamabad's Constitution Avenue area within the next 24 hours.

The two parties are seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

A five-member Supreme Court (SC) bench led by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk asked the attorney general and counsels representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to work out modalities to clear the area by Tuesday, Dawn online reported.

The SC bench said judges would like to arrive Tuesday in the Supreme Court via the Constitution Avenue route.

The protestors have camped in front of Parliament House and the SC building since Aug 19, making the road less accessible for the Supreme Court, Prime Minister's Office and secretariat employees.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Kamran Murtaza and other members of the legal fraternity.

The petition contended that the protestors were breaching the rights of the common citizen as enshrined in Articles 15 and 16 ensuring freedom of movement and right of assembly.

Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk said that demonstrators had occupied Constitution Avenue and that they were checking vehicles and passers-by, while this is the job of the security personnel.

Consequently, the SC judges have to come to court through an alternate route, while the attendance of SC employees was also very low because of this, the chief justice noted.

PTI counsel Hamid Khan said the party has been holding its protest in Parade Ground where there are no government offices.

Further, PAT counsel Ali Zafar said that he would convey the court's concerns to party chief Tahir ul-Qadri.

In an earlier reply, Qadri had contended that the protest was a "political matter" and that the court had no authority to interfere in it.

He said his party's supporters were peaceful and that they would not enter government offices at any cost.

Attorney General Salman Butt said that the government was willing to shift the protestors to a sports complex, which would also allow the removal of several shipping containers placed at different points in the federal capital.

The case will next be heard Aug 27.

The protests in Islamabad, that began Aug 15, entered the 10th day Monday as PTI, PAT and the government remained deadlocked over the issue of the resignation of Sharif who is accused of rigging the 2013 general elections.

Earlier Monday, PTI chief Imran Khan said his call for Prime Minister Sharif to step down for a 30-day period was non-negotiable and the ball was now in the government's court.

"It is an ultimate compromise on my earlier demand, nobody should expect more than this and now the turn is of the government," the Nation quoted Khan as saying Sunday at a sit-in in Islamabad's D-Chowk.

"We have given them a way out yesterday (Saturday) as we want a middle ground," Khan said.

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