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Pakistan calls in army as Islamabad protests turn violent

The government also asked all news channels to suspend live broadcast as protests against a police operation earlier in the day in Islamabad spread to other cities.

world Updated: Nov 25, 2017 23:13 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Tehreek-i-Labaik protestors shout slogans against government during a protest in Lahore on November 25, 2017.
Tehreek-i-Labaik protestors shout slogans against government during a protest in Lahore on November 25, 2017. (AFP)

Pakistan cracked down on radical Islamist protestors in Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Saturday, calling in the military to restore law and order after violence broke out following an attempt by security forces to disperse the demonstrators.

Media reports quoted an interior ministry order, which authorised the deployment of “sufficient” military troops in Islamabad to “control law and order” in the city until further notice.

Earlier, the Islamabad police, with the help of Frontier Constabulary personnel and other law enforcement agencies, launched an operation against protesters after the last of a long series of deadlines lapsed on Saturday morning without response from the agitators.

Security forces fought running battles with stone-throwing activists of the ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labbaik, but failed to dislodge the activists blocking roads into Islamabad.

The government also asked all news channels to suspend live broadcast as protests against a police operation earlier in the day in Islamabad spread to other cities. Social media networks including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were also blocked in various parts of the country.

At least two people were killed and over 200 were injured across Islamabad and Rawalpindi, with the number expected to rise.

Protests also broke out in Lahore and Karachi, as well as smaller towns.

A Pakistani police officer aims his gun towards the protesters next to a burning police vehicle during a clash in Islamabad on November 25, 2017. (AP)

It is feared that protests will continue on Sunday as well. Tehreek-e-Labbaik spokesperson Ejaz Ashrafi told the media over telephone that supporters of the movement were in their thousands. “We will not leave. We will fight until the end,” he said.

Pakistan’s interior minister Ahsan Iqbal claimed that the protestors had “contacted India”, and the government was investigating “why they did it”, without giving further details about his claim.

“We can see that they have various resources at their disposal. They have fired teargas shells (at security forces), they also cut the fibre-optic cables of cameras monitoring their protest...They have inside information and resources that are being used against the state,” he told DawnNews.

The protesters want the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid for altering the declaration of lawmakers with regard to Finality of the Prophethood – a change which the government has already reversed.

DawnNews reported that protesters tried to break into the residence of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in Faizabad. Hamid’s residence in Sialkot was also attacked.

(With inputs from agencies)