March 20, 2018

Crackdown on hardliners triggers violent clashes across Pakistan

29 November 2017, 12:58 | Rufus Hill

Several injured people including police officers have been shifted to the hospitals

Several injured people including police officers have been shifted to the hospitals

Earlier in the day, several protesters belonging to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik broke into and ransacked the residence of Law Minister Zahid Hamid in his hometown of Pasrur, in Sialkot district of Punjab. Thousands of fresh protestors joined the sit-in in Islamabad. According to a Geo TV report, the daily cost of deploying forces to contain the protest stands at 5 million Pakistani rupees.

With the situation turning grim in Islamabad and violence spilling into other cities, the government's Interior Ministry issued a statement in the evening saying the army has been deployed to "control the law-and-order situation". The government has apologized and denied making such a change, calling it a clerical mistake.

However, as the police have not been issued instructions to take action against the protesters so far today, the latter's actions were not met with any retaliation by the forces.

Islamist party activists have clashed with security forces for a second day on the outskirts of Islamabad, burning vehicles before withdrawing to a protest camp they have maintained for almost three weeks. He said none of the police carried firearms to avoid loss of life, instead using tear gas and a water cannon to disperse the protesters, although witnesses said a police van came under attack and was set on fire after two police officers aimed assault rifles at protesters.

A large number of religious parties also took out rallies and staged demonstrations in Umerkot, Mithi, Sujawal and other towns of lower Sindh to register their protest against the ongoing operation against the protesters in Islamabad.

"The Pakistani government has made a decision to summon army forces to country's capital Islamabad to establish order in the city following weeks of unrest caused by protesters opposing an amendment to election act, according to a statement issued on Saturday night".

Pakistan Army called in to take control of Islamabad as protests escalate
Pakistan Rangers take control of Faizabad sit-in site

As the clashes intensified, Pakistan's powerful military chief phoned the prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to urge the situation be handled "peacefully", military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Twitter.

Later in the day, security forces appeared to face difficulty clearing the crucial intersection as more and more supporters joined protesters at the site. While the local hospitals have confirmed that most of the injured Islamists have already been released 20 protestors are still admitted with serious injuries.

However officials are quoted in other reports confirming that several people were killed.

Private television channels in Pakistan were taken off the air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, according to a message slate that replaced the channels' programming. In the ensuing clashes, at least six people have died, 200 have been injured and the government has called in for reinforcements from the army.

The protest has also embarrassed the country as a whole because the highway where the sit-in has been organised is part of a vital road network around Pakistan's capital. The religious groups protesting belonged to the Barelvi sect of Islam that has strong ties to Sufism.

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