Violent clashes in Pakistan have killed one security person and left over 150 others injured after police and paramilitary forces launched an operation to disperse hundreds of protesters blocking main highways leading to the national capital Islamabad.
This was after Islamabad High Court (IHC) yesterday issued contempt of court notice against Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for failing to implement orders to clear the roads. There are also reports that the Pakistan government has blocked popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube amidst ongoing operation again.
Military spokesman Major General Asif Gafoor said that army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa talked to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on telephone and urged for peaceful solution to the problem.
His tweet, however, gave rise to suspicions of a larger military involvement in the crisis. He wrote, “COAS telephoned PM.Suggested to handle Isb Dharna peacefully avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest & cohesion.”
COAS telephoned PM.Suggested to handle Isb Dharna peacefully avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest & cohesion.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) November 25, 2017
The military spokesperson came under flak for his intervention in the civil government’s role as pointed out by journalists and civilians on Twitter.
Govt's decision to be followed over Faizabad sit-in, says DG ISPRhttps://t.co/8SPAw5VrsQ (25 Nov 2017)
— Aamir Mughal (@mughalbha) November 25, 2017
Meray aziz hamwatno ka waqt hua chaahta hai? https://t.co/v1LnGvt9jN
— Mubashir Zaidi (@Xadeejournalist) November 25, 2017
About 2,000 activists of Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) for more than two weeks have been blocking the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road that connect Islamabad with its only airport and the garrison city of Rawalpindi, reported PTI.
The protesters demand the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid for changes made about Khatm-i-Nabuwwat or finality of prophethood oath in the Elections Act 2017 passed in September.
More than 70 people have been injured. They were shifted to hospital of twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, a health official said. Those injured include also more than 35 security personnel who were hit by stones thrown by protesters, the official said.
Islamabad city magistrate yesterday issued a warning to protesters to disperse by midnight or face the consequences.
TV footage showed police firing teargas and security personnel in riot gears charging at the protesters. Dozens of them were arrested and shifted to various police stations. Some of the security personnel were injured due to stone pelting by protesters. According to a security official, more than 8,000 security personnel took part in the operation against around 2,000 protesters.
The operation was still going on and police were facing stiff resistance from the protesters.
Earlier, IHC last Friday had given a 24-hour deadline to the government to clear the roads which was later extended till Thursday.
However, the court yesterday expressed strong displeasure at the government for failing to take action against the protesters.