Army called in to secure capital

At least 140 people, including police and FC personnel, have been injured in the ongoing clash between law enforcing agencies and the protesters.

The Pakistani government has called on the army to restore order in Islamabad and disperse anti-blasphemy protesters who have been demonstrating in the capital for the past fortnight.

Seemingly emboldened by the failure of the government to clear the protests, which have almost paralysed the capital, Khadim Hussain Rizvi - the firebrand cleric who leads the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan party - has called for protesters to bring the whole country to a halt.

The operation to clear Faizabad Interchange from protesters staging a sit-in, which had commenced early morning on Saturday, was put on hold later in the day.

"COAS telephoned the prime minister, suggested him to handle Islamabad dharna (sit-in) peacefully, avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest and cohesion", the Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor told in a twitter message. The government has apologized and denied making such a change, calling it a clerical mistake. They support Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan, the hardline Islamist movement spearheading demonstrations.

Courts Blast Government Over Protest Paralysis
Ahsan Iqbal again offers talks to Faizabad sit-in protesters

There are prison vans, ambulances at the site. Police have also used water cannons to disperse the protesters. The police was acting on a court order which directed that the protests be cleared. The operation was ordered by Interior Ministry in a bid to implement the orders of Islamabad High Court.

In Lahore, protesters gathered in more than 30 locations, said Kiran Nazish, a local journalist.

The protesters, who before Saturday numbered some 2,000 people, are demanding that federal law minister Zahid Hamid resign over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear. Traffic jam has choked arteries near Data Darbar.

Scores of protesters also came out on the roads in various cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, and other cities of Punjab, and in the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, to protest the crackdown in Islamabad.

Later, news channels went off air, after a notification from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) barred them from broadcasting the security operation live.

  • Jon Douglas