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Army called in to restore peace after cop martyred, over 200 hurt in Islamabad clashes

ISLAMABAD: The government has called in the Army for an indefinite period to control law and order situation in the federal capital.

By Web Desk
November 25, 2017

ISLAMABAD:   The government has called in the Army for an indefinite period to control law and order situation in the federal capital.

In this connection, a notification has been issued by the interior ministry on Saturday night.

The Army would be deployed in the entire capital to control the situation emerged after a crackdown on protesters.

According to Geo News, the notification had been issued by the interior ministry after an approval from Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Earlier in the day,  a policeman was martyred and over 200 people including police officers were injured as forces on Saturday moved to disperse a sit-in that has virtually paralysed the country´s capital for weeks.

Smoke and tear gas filled the air as the roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear were also seen throwing rocks and using slingshots in the ongoing bid to clear 2,000 or so hardline demonstrators which began soon after dawn.

AFP reporters at the site said more protesters were arriving, though it was difficult to tell how many. Trees had been cut down to block roads, and protesters were burning tyres.

Pakistan´s media regulator barred local TV channels from broadcasting live images from the scene as violence intensified.

At least 110 injured people have been taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, a spokesman from the hospital told AFP, adding that 66 of them were members of the security forces.

An Islamabad police spokesman confirmed that a policeman was martyred  in the fighting after he was struck in the head by a rock. Television footage showed a police van and demonstrators´ tents on fire.

Local media reported that small protests -- each with several dozen TLYRAP supporters -- were breaking out in other cities, including Karachi and Lahore, as the Islamabad operation dragged on through Saturday.

An Islamabad police official had said before the violent clashes that the operation sought to avoid any loss of life on either side.

Police said a policeman died of head  injuries at a local hospital. The policeman was  injured when protesters   pelted the forces with stones in I-8-4 area of the city.

The roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear began clearing the 2,000 or so demonstrators soon after dawn, with nearby roads and markets closed.

The sit-in by the little-known hardline group called Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan has blocked a main highway used by thousands of commuters since November 6, causing hours-long traffic snarls and enraging commuters.

The protesters are demanding that Pakistan´s law minister Zahid Hamid resign over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear.

Policeman fires at protesters. Photo: AFP  

AFP reporters at the scene said small scuffles had broken out as protesters hurled rocks at police. Others were detained as security forces began to clear the site. Some ambulances could be seen in the area but it was not clear if there had been any injuries.

An Islamabad police official said that the operation sought to avoid any loss of life on either side.

The sit-in has already cost the life of at least one eight-year-old child whose ambulance could not reach a hospital in time due to the blocked roads.

 Plainclothes policemen arrest an injured activist (C) from the Tehreek-i-Labaik Yah Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLYRAP) religious group. Photo: AFP

Despite the protest´s relatively small size, authorities have hesitated to act against it, citing fears of violence as the demonstrators have vowed to die for their cause.

But government inaction has drawn the fury of the courts as well as millions of residents in Islamabad and neighbouring Rawalpindi.

The Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court have issued blistering criticism and threatened to hold officials in contempt for their inaction.

Analysts and critics have accused the government of bungling its response to the protest, and allowing a minor issue to grow into a headline-grabbing and potentially dangerous situation.

It set an alarming precedent, that "anytime anyone is upset with the government, the capital may be choked and the government will bend its knees," warned Zeeshan Salahuddin of the Center for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad.

 Some  protesters wearing gas masks  were also seen throwing tear gas canisters  back to police while others were pelting the police  with stones  using sling-shots.

Activists of a religious group throw rocks toward riot police during a clash in Islamabad. Photo: Reuters 

An emergency has been declared in the hospitals of the federal capital in the wake of the crackdown. 

Complying with court orders, the district administration of Islamabad earlier on Friday had issued final warning to protesters to clear Faizabad interchange and other main roads by midnight.

On Friday, Islamabad High Court ordered the federal capital administration to end the ongoing Faizabad sit-in by Sunday.

The protesters belonging to religious parties — Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) —are calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017. The amendment had earlier been deemed a ‘clerical error’ and has already been rectified.

The protesters had occupied the Faizabad Bridge which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad through the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road, both of which are the busiest roads in the twin cities.