Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Pakistani Government Calls in Army to Disperse Protesters

Pakistani Government Calls in Army to Disperse Protesters

Sunday, 26 November, 2017 - 12:15
A policeman takes a picture of a car burned during clashes near the Faizabad junction in Islamabad, Pakistan November 26, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Pakistan’s government called on the army to deploy on Saturday in the capital Islamabad following the violent incidents that erupted after police clashed with hard-liners and religious protests.

At least six people were killed and around 190 injured, including 137 security forces, in fierce clashes as police tried to disperse the demonstration.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to try to disperse the demonstrators blocking the streets as the protests reached cities like Lahore, Karachi, and other cities all over the country.

Police had been attempting to clear a small protest by a little-known hard line group that had been blocking the main highway into Islamabad since November 6, causing hours-long traffic jams and enraging citizens.

It was not clear how many protesters remained in the streets of Islamabad late Saturday. There had been roughly 2,000 protesters since the operation began, but Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporters said dozens more were arriving throughout the day.

Shortly after, authorities requested the army to step in, as an interior ministry order indicated that the federal government had authorized the deployment of “sufficient troops” to “control law and order” in the city until further notice.

Military officials gave no immediate comment.

The demonstrations threatened the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) government ahead of a general election due next year.

Authorities hesitated for days before dispersing the protesters at the time citizens' rage increased due to traffic, which was disrupted daily for weeks.

Protesters are requesting Pakistan’s law minister Zahid Hamid resign over the controversy over an amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear, which had been abandoned.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered all news channels off air. It barred media from live coverage of Islamabad operation under Media Code of Conduct 2015.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi ordered all private news channels to be off the air.

The authorities also blocked access to some social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, however they remained accessible through applications.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the police used tear gas and water to disperse the protesters, adding that police were not allowed to use fire guns.

Ishaq Ashhar of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences reported that the hospital received 36 injured persons at least.

A US official warned on Saturday against repercussions following the release of Pakistani extremist Hafiz Saeed accused of masterminding a 2008 assault in Mumbai, India.

A Pakistani court issued this week an order to end Saeed's house arrest, which began in January.

"(Hafiz) Saeed's release, after Pakistan's failure to prosecute or charge him, sends a deeply troubling message about Pakistan's commitment to (combating) international terrorism and belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for terrorists on its soil," the White House said in a statement.

State Department's spokesperon Heather Nauret stated that US is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan.

"LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens. The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes," added Nauret.

Jamaat Ad-Dawa is believed to be the front for armed group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

In 2008, 10 Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai landmarks in pairs, killing over 160 persons. Saeed denies allegations linking him to the attacks. For years, the US has offered $10 million as an award for information that could lead to his arrest. In a video circulating on Saturday, Saeed said that his release is a victory to the truth, adding that nothing had been proved against him.

US Congress passed a bill that doesn't condition for Pakistan to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in military funding in return of taking actions against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

Editor Picks