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Pakistan paralyzed! Demonstrations, roadblocks! Sit-in continues in Islamabad – Army Chief Called PM

Pakistan paralyzed! Demonstrations, roadblocks! Sit-in continues in Islamabad – Army Chief Called PM

Pakistan Press Club – Islamabad

Islamabad operation ‘suspended’ as thousands of violent protesters take over streets.

COAS asks PM Abbasi to tackle Islamabad protest ‘peacefully’.

Demonstrations, roadblocks paralyze life across country as standoff continues in Islamabad.

A crackdown against religious protesters camped out at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange was ‘suspended’ on Saturday evening as thousands of protesters took over the streets in the federal capital.

The Islamabad police, with the help of Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel and other law enforcement agencies, launched the operation against protesters earlier today after the last of a long series of deadlines lapsed this morning without response from the agitating parties. The protesters have been camped out at the Faizabad Interchange since November 8.

Pakistan paralyzed

Pakistan paralyzed! Demonstrations, roadblocks! Sit-in continues in Islamabad – Army Chief Called PM

What we know so far:

  • 8,500 security personnel are involved
  • Police had dispersed nearly 50pc of protesters before more entered the city
  • At least 150 protesters were arrested
  • Over 200 people were injured in Islamabad
  • Security personnel have uprooted tents, destroyed protesters’ belongings as they advance

Roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear took part in the clearance operation.

An Islamabad police spokesman told AFP that an officer was killed in the clash with protesters after he was struck in the head by a rock. His death has not been independently verified by DawnNews.

So far, over 200 people have been injured across Islamabad and Rawalpindi with numbers expected to rise. At least 60 police officers, 45 FC men, and 50 civilians are among those injured. The injured also include the Bani Gala station house officer (SHO) and Abdul Hadi, a magistrate of the Islamabad administration.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s residence in Sialkot was also attacked by protesters as the agitation spilled over to other cities across the country.

 

The unrest in Islamabad following a crackdown against religious protesters camped out at Faizabad has spilled over to other parts of the country, as men loyal to various religious parties have started holding disruptive demonstrations in various cities.

In Sialkot, scores of men also attacked the residence of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, whose resignation is the number one demand of the Faizabad protesters. Fortunately, no one from his family was present when the attackers started pelting stones at the building. Following the attack, the security forces arrested at least 12 suspects from the area and summoned reinforcements.

Separately in Sheikhupura, PML-N lawmaker Javed Latif was attacked and injured by angry protesters when he tried to negotiate with them.

Karachi

Demonstrations had started in the morning after protesters gathered at Numaish Chowrangi, one of the city’s busiest traffic interchanges. Other areas which were affected include Teen Talwar, Boat Basin, Nipa, Sohrab Goth, Shahrah-i-Faisal near Stargate and Nursery, Hub River Road and Hassan Square, where both tracks of the road remained closed for traffic for hours.

Moreover, at least 12 people were reportedly injured in skirmishes with police at Stargate and Nursery, where police fired tear gas shells to break up the protests.

Protesters were turned away from Natha Khan Chowk by Sindh Rangers and police after a vehicle belonging to a private company was set on fire. The occupants of the vehicle had escaped safely and the area has reportedly been cleared.

Reports were also received of enraged protesters burning tyres and forcibly closing businesses in various areas of the metropolis.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken notice of the unrest and directed the commissioner and inspector general of police to clear the traffic.

Hyderabad/Sindh

Protesters blocked the busy Haider Chowk area in Hyderabad, while a large number of religious activists staged demonstrations in Sukkur, Umerkot, Mithi, Sujawal and other cities to register their protests.

Various religious organisations also staged a protest demonstration outside the Badin Press Club, demanding a halt in the use of violence against protesters camped out in the capital.

The National Highway near Khairpur also remained blocked for over three hours.

Lahore/Punjab

A large number of demonstrators converged earlier in the day at Shahdara in Lahore. There were reports of similar protests at Imamia Colony and other settlements along the GT Road. Roads from Lahore to Gujranwala and Faisalabad also remained closed.

The other affected areas include Mall Road , Bhatta Chowk, Ferozepur Road, Shah Alami Chowk, Thokar Niaz Baig, Walton Road, Mughalpura, Garhi Shahu and Johar Town.

Meanwhile, protests were also reported from other cities of the province, including Gujranwala, Multan, Nakana Sahib. Mianwali, Gujrat, Sahiwal, Vehari, Toba Tek Singh and Murree.

Massive traffic congestion has also been reported on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, with suffering travelers reporting being stranded for hours.

Peshawar

Protesters in Peshawar blocked the provincial capital’s main Ring Road, which is also used for Afghan transit trade.

The protest caused a massive traffic jam in the area, and the protesters appeared determined to continue until their demands were met. They had begun setting up camps and are collecting donations to arrange food for the night when last reports were received.

Protests had also erupted in other cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Haripur, Mansehra and Dera Ismail Khan.

Quetta

After violent clashes in the federal capital, workers of religious organisations turned out on the roads of Quetta to vent their anger. The angry protesters blocked the main Hockey Chowk, causing a serious traffic jam in the city.

The protesters, led by Maulana Abdul Qudoos Sasoli, raised slogans against the federal government and security personnel. However, they reportedly dispersed later after negotiations with law enforcement personnel.

COAS asks PM Abbasi to tackle Islamabad protest ‘peacefully’

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa advised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday to “handle the Islamabad dharnapeacefully” as violent clashes erupted between security forces and protesters in the capital city during a clearance operation at the Faizabad Interchange.

At least 139 people ─ including protesters and security forces ─ were injured as police, the Frontier Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies employed teargas shelling and rubber bullets to disperse the agitators, who have held an 18-day-long sit-in despite repeated requests by the government to clear the area. In response, the protesters have been using stones and rocks to attack the advancing security forces.

The crackdown ordered by the Islamabad High Court was launched after the last of a long series of deadlines lapsed today morning without response from the agitating parties.

Roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear are taking part in the clearance operation of over 2,000 protesters in the capital city.

Following the news of the clearance operation, religious parties began protesting in other cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Badin.

Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted that the army chief telephoned the prime minister and suggested the clearance operation in Islamabad be handled peacefully, “avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest and cohesion.”

Earlier this week, the military’s spokesperson said the army would abide by whatever decision the government took regarding the clearance of the Faizabad Interchange, although it would be preferable to address the situation through peaceful means.

The DG ISPR said that the civil and military leaderships were on the same page when it came to the country’s security, and that the army was duty-bound to carry out the government’s instructions.

‘Capital admin bound to enforce court’s order’

Shortly after the DG ISPR tweeted today, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted that the administration of Islamabad is “responsible to ensure enforcement of [the] IHC order to restore public convenience in the Faizabad area.

The IHC, which had initially advised protesters to end their protest, then ordered the capital administration to use “whatever means necessary” to evict protesters from the Faizabad Interchange by Saturday last week.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had, however, requested the court for several extensions in the deadline as the government attempted to negotiate with the protesters, but failed each time.

The IHC then warned the interior minster of contempt of court for not taking action against the protesters. A final deadline for dispersal for Saturday 7am was handed to the protesters, but passed unheeded after which security forces launched an operation to clear the area .

Life in Islamabad disrupted

The capital administration had, on Nov 5, warned the TLY and ST against holding any sit-in in Islamabad, saying that a ban on public gatherings had already been imposed in the city.

The parties were also informed that Islamabad’s Parade Ground had been reserved for such gatherings and holding a rally somewhere else in the capital would be unlawful.

The organisers had not sought any permission for the rally or the sit-in. On Nov 8, the protesters blocked the expressway that connects Islamabad with Rawalpindi.

Since then, the metro service has also been halted. According to the Metro Bus Authority (MBA), more than 100,000 people used the service between the twin cities daily.

IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on Friday asked “why contempt of court proceedings may not be initiated against him [Ahsan Iqbal]. He is directed to appear in person on the next date”.

The IHC order noted that: “Patients dying for want of access to hospitals, traders crying for lack of business activity, students are being deprived from their right to education and right of free movement of almost six million people of twin cities usurped by dictatorial act of one person and passive approach of law enforcing agencies [is] adding to the miseries of citizens”.

The court order, however, advised the district administration not to use “firearms” during the clearance operation, if one was required.

 

Recapping the crisis

  • The agitators believe that a sworn oath affirming a politician’s belief in the finality of prophethood (Khatm-i-Nabuwwat) was deliberately modified as part of a larger conspiracy during the passage of the Elections Act, 2017.
  • The amendment was deemed a ‘clerical error’ by the government and has already been rectified through an Act of Parliament.
  • Nonetheless, the protesters had been insistent on the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for his alleged role in the controversy.
  • There is no proof yet that indicates Hamid was responsible for the amendment. A committee headed by Raja Zafarul Haq has been probing the issue.
  • The Islamabad High Court, the Supreme Court and the heads of various religious parties had repeatedly called for the protesters to disband, calling the protest unlawful.
  • The Islamabad High Court had said the protest’s leaders had, prima facie, committed an ‘act of terror’ by continuing their process.
  • The interior minister was warned of contempt of court by the IHC for not evicting the protesters.
  • The government initiated several rounds of negotiations with the protesters, but failed each time.

The religious hardliners camped out at Faizabad had been unrelenting on their demand for the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid over his alleged role in the amendment of the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017, which is apparently what led to the breakdown in the negotiation process.

The Elections Act 2017 — which paved the way for Nawaz Sharif to return as PML-N president — had become a cause of controversy when it was revealed that an oath regarding the finality of prophethood had been modified to a ‘declaration’ somewhere during the process of its passage. The government had claimed that the modification was the result of a clerical mistake.

The amendment in the oath which caused the controversy has already been reversed by parliament.

The Islamabad protesters belong to various religious parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (ST).

Deployment of LEAs

Security deployment in the capital had been beefed up since October 24, when the Ashraf Jalali faction of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah descended on the city and staged a sit-in in the Blue Area, which had ended on Nov 3.

According to media reports, the number of personnel deployed around the sit-in varies as per the situation. On average, a shift consists of 3,000-7,000 personnel.

Police also impounded over 200 containers to control access to the city as part of security measures. Five cranes and 10 trailers were also hired to move the containers around, while 19 water tankers – 15 of which were meant to refill water cannons and four to supply drinking water to on-duty personnel, had also been requisitioned.

Another 40 vehicles, including buses and wagons, had been engaged to transport personnel from their accommodations to the duty spot around the Faizabad.

Over the more than two-week-long sit-in, several cases had been filed against the protesters and the organisers of the sit-in. One of these included a murder case.

The protesters were also accused of beating up two photojournalistsand several others during their sit-in.

Police had arrested around 150 participants over the course of the protests. The arrests had been made during clashes between law enforcement agencies and protesters, which broke out sporadically over the 17-day showdown between the state and religious hardliners.

 

 

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