Pakistan govt calls in army to clear blockade

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

CNN reported more than 250 people were injured and at least two people died during the protests.

Media reports quoted an interior ministry order, which authorised the deployment of "sufficient" military troops in Islamabad to "control law and order" in the city until further notice.

According to Waqt News, the security forces had dispersed half of protesters from sit-in while all protesters were dispersed from Faizabad interchange.

According to Geo News, the angry protesters forcibly entered and ransacked the house of the law minister.

In a dramatic move, Pakistan's government late Saturday called in the army to secure the capital following an eight-hour crackdown against violent protesters.

The agency had ordered local TV channels to refrain from live coverage of the ongoing government operation. The minister, however, is in Islamabad. The government puts the issue down to a clerical error.

Police have also used water cannons to disperse the protesters after the capital was paralysed due to the sit-in which has been ongoing for nearly three weeks. They support Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan, the hardline Islamist movement spearheading demonstrations. The protesters have been demanding the resignation of Pakistan's law minister Zahid Hamid over changes made in the finality of prophethood oath in the Elections Act 2017 passed in September 2017.

Protesters had been blocking a key road connecting Islamabad and the neighboring city of Rawalpindi since November 8. Protesters, some wearing gas masks, fought back in scattered battles across empty highways and surrounding neighbourhoods.

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

Pakistan blocked popular social media site including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stop protesters from uploading their messages. Traffic jam has choked arteries near Data Darbar.

The protests spread to other cities in Pakistan, including Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad and Faisalabad.

All the news channels have also been suspended. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, head of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army's media wing, said that Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and suggested that the sit-in be resolved peacefully.

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