Pakistan Army called in to take control of Islamabad as protests escalate

Wednesday, 29 Nov, 2017

News media also reported protesters breaking into the house of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The protesters engaged in a sit-in style demonstration that blocked major intersections that allowed transit in and out of Islamabad.

The letter also highlights that the Army is not a force traditionally used to disperse crowds or protesters, adding that the terms of the military's deployment in the twin cities need to be clarified in keeping with orders passed by the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court earlier this week.

On Saturday, a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior had said a sufficient number of troops, to be determined by the Commander of the 111 Brigade, were being deployed in the capital to assist civil authorities in maintaining law and order.

The government swiftly apologized for the "clerical error", but the protest leaders continued to push for further action, especially the firing of the law minister, Zahid Hamid.

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.

Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators but were met by stubborn resistance by protesters who blocked roads and torched vehicles around the site of the sit-in.

The violence, which has spread to other cities, prompted a media blackout on Saturday and forced authorities to send in federal troops to support police.

The private Pakistan Broadcasting Association said the government should order cable service providers to restart television channels and their coverage of the protests. The spokesperson said the operation was conducted by police and FC, and Rangers did not take part in it.

Taking note of a worsening situation, military chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to call for the peaceful handling of the protest, according to a tweet by military spokesman Maj.

"There have been several fatalities and scores of people have been injured in clashes between the protesters and security forces in Islamabad on Saturday".

Senior police officer Ismatullah Junejo said police were swiftly clearing the venue as some 300 protesters ignored the final warning to disperse.

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

Police and the Frontier Corps personnel have been deployed at I-8 Markaz.

Local hospitals reported that most of the injured were police officers, and that five civilians arrived dead from gunshot wounds.

Only state-run PTV, which has not been reporting on the protest, remained on air.

On Saturday, protesters also gathered in cities including Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad and Faisalabad, blocking main roads and triggering traffic jams.

"The TLY, who mostly consist of Barelvi Muslims - a Sunni sect with elements of Sharia and Sufism - were until recently considered a sect that largely believed in mysticism with no inclination for politics".