June 21, 2018

Pakistani Authorities Order Media Blackout During Protest When Police Crackdown Got Violent

29 November 2017, 01:01 | Marta Robbins

Pakistan calls on army to restore order as blasphemy protests spread

Chaos in Islamabad as security forces fire rubber bullets to disperse Islamist sit-in

The protesters engaged in a sit-in style demonstration that blocked major intersections that allowed transit in and out of Islamabad.

Though the amendment was immediately reversed, Rizvi's supporters are still adamant on Hamid's resignation, denouncing the initial change as blasphemy - a highly volatile issue that has repeatedly caused violence in Pakistan.

On Saturday, a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior had 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. Hamid apologized for the omission - a phrase saying that Muhammad is the last prophet in Islam - saying it was a clerical error that was later corrected.

Protesters remained at the sit-in site on the outskirts of Islamabad in defiance of the government action a day earlier.

Islamist party activists have clashed with security forces for a second day on the outskirts of Islamabad, burning vehicles before withdrawing to a protest camp they have maintained for almost three weeks.

Earlier, security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse the demonstrators, Pakistani media report, but were met with rocks and tear gas shells.

"The Pakistan Rangers took control of the area occupied by anti-blasphemy protesters in Islamabad on Sunday while police and the Frontier Corps personnel were deployed in other parts of the city, Radio Pakistan reported, as peace gradually returned to the capital and other cities after a day of violent clashes left at least six people dead".

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"The Pakistani government has chose to summon army forces to country's capital Islamabad to establish order in the city following weeks of unrest caused by protesters opposing an amendment to election act, according to a statement issued on Saturday night".

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

Sitting on thatched mats or blankets, numerous protesters were reading the newspapers, whose front pages were dominated by news of the clashes on Saturday.

Senior police officer Ismatullah Junejo said police were swiftly clearing a venue of around 300 protesters who ignored the final warning to disperse. Facing thousands of security forces, the protesters resisted for hours, even throwing back tear gas canisters.

RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reported on November 26 that protesters also had entered Islamabad's I-8 sector - an area bordering Rawalpindi. Protesters set three police vehicles on fire, and several other civilian cars and motorcycles as well as two television station vehicles stationed to broadcast the events.

The police officer suffered a deadly blow to the head as protesters pelted stones at security forces during the crackdown on the I.J. Principal Road near the Faizabad Interchange. In the ensuing clashes, at least six people have died, 200 have been injured and the government has called in for reinforcements from the army. "Only Allah is running this country".

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