We can’t use force against our own people,
Pakistan Press ISLAMABAD / LAHORE:
The Pakistan Army will not participate in the crackdown on the Faizabad protesters but it will safeguard the government installations in the federal capital, it was decided at a meeting of the country’s top civilian and military leaders on Sunday.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chaired the meeting in Islamabad. It was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Naveed Mukhtar, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.
It was decided that troops would be deployed in Islamabad as the federal government, exercising its authority under Article 245 of the Constitutions, had called them out in the federal capital to assist the civilian administration in restoring peace, Pakistan Press reported.
However, the army will not participate in the operation against the Tehreek-e-Labbaik protesters. It was urged during the meeting that the police and civilian administration were responsible for dispersing the protesters and they should do so peacefully through talks.
The prime minister was briefed about the ongoing law and order situation across the country in the wake of the Faizabad crackdown launched on Saturday.
General Qamar told the premier that the state should not use force against its own people. “The masses of Pakistan love and trust the army. Their confidence can’t be dented for small benefits,” he added.
The COAS further said those responsible for the amendment to the Khatme Nabuwat oath for election candidates should be identified and punished.
The army chief also asked the PM to order the immediate restoration of private TV channels’ transmission.
Army seeks ‘clarification’
Earlier, after the desperate government called out the army following an abortive operation to disperse protesters from Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange, the military asked for ‘clarifications’ over a few matters before they step in.
In its reply to the Interior Ministry, a statement issued by the General Headquarters said the army is ready to fully “perform the assigned task in line with its constitutional obligations a few aspects meriting prior to employment of army”.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Interior 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 troops have been deployed in aid of civil power under Article 245 of the Constitution and will remain in Islamabad until further order.
The army’s statement listed down three key points.
They pointed out that the police have not been “optimally utilised” while dealing with the protesters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik.
It further stated that the Rangers have not been given written instructions for their deployment in contrast to the agreement that a written order would be required for their deployment.
Citing the Islamabad High Court order, the communique also said that the court had barred the use of firearms against the protesters and calling the army in implies the use of force. The statement has then asked for a clarification on the matter.
According to Pakistan Press, a meeting between army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is expected to take place later in the day.
The army chief flew back to the country after cutting short his trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The chief of army staff (COAS) called up the premier on Saturday to advise him against the use of power over the protestors.
In a tweet, DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor had said that violence would be against national interest and cohesion and quoting the COAS as saying that the issue should be resolved peacefully.
The religious group has been camping at the arterial traffic intersection of the federal capital since the start of this month.
Rangers take control
The Pakistan Rangers Punjab took control of the sit-in area at Faizabad Interchange. Police and the Frontier Corps (FC) have been deployed at I-8 Markaz, Radio Pakistan reported.
Rangers have also cordoned off the IJP Road, Expressway, Murree Road and the Faisal Avenue.
Protesters are gathered at the sit-in site and listening to the speeches of their leaders. There is no traffic movement in the area of I-8 and Faizabad.
Fresh clashes in Islamabad
A clash erupted between activists of a religious party and paramilitary forces on a highway in Islamabad early on Sunday.
According to Pakistan Press, at least one car and five motorcycles were set on fire by the protesters. Consequently, Punjab Rangers backtracked from their check-posts while Islamabad police used tear gas to disperse the mob.
Meanwhile, Motorway M1 leading to Islamabad from Peshawar has been opened for passengers on Sunday morning. However, Motorway M2 near Chakri and Pindi Bhattian was closed for travellers.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, spokesperson for Motorway Mehmood Ali Khokhar said that people from Lahore were unable to enter Islamabad unless they used link roads from Gujar Khan to Balkasar Interchange before taking motorway for the capital.
Punjab shuts down educational institutions
The Punjab government ordered all educational institutions to remain closed for the next two days owing to the law and order situation in the province.
All educational institutions in Punjab to remain closed for next two days
Punjab School Education Minister Rana Mashood Ahmed confirmed the development to The Express Tribune.
The decision to keep schools, colleges and universities remain closed on November 27 and 28 was taken following protests by religious parties across the province.
Earlier on Saturday, the authorities finally launched an operation to retrieve Faizabad intersection from Tehreek-e-Labbaik protesters after weeks of negotiations and nudging by the courts, but the police action only multiplied the government’s problems amid a worsening law and order situation in Islamabad and other cities.
At the end of the day, at least six protesters had been confirmed dead, while more than 200 people – including protesters and law enforcers – were injured. All six fatalities took place in Rawalpindi and four of the deceased were identified as Zohaib, Jahanzeb, Irfan and Adeel. The other two were yet to be identified.
The protesters torched over a dozen police vehicles and several motorcycles, as riot police beat a hasty retreat hours after they mounted the crackdown.
Officials said 40 personnel of Rawalpindi and 76 of Islamabad police, 64 Frontier Constabulary men and 50 civilians suffered injuries and were taken to hospitals. None of the injuries was critical though.
Police seizes containers
The police and local administration have seized hundreds of containers across Punjab.
Pakistan Goods Transporters Association General Secretary Nabeel Mahmood Tariq told The Express Tribune that police and administration have seized a number of containers from the association’s members.
Police seize containers across Punjab to create blockades to prevent protests
“It is difficult to estimate the exact number of seized containers and trucks as the government has blacked out most information and communication channels, including news channels and the internet,” he highlighted.
Punjab Goods Transport Association General Secretary Javed Malik estimated that around 4,000 to 5,000 containers have been seized across Punjab.
Most of these containers have been seized in the twin cities causing huge losses to transporters.