A security person was killed and over 150 others were injured in Pakistan today during clashes which broke out after police and paramilitary forces launched an operation to disperse hundreds of protesters blocking main highways leading to the capital Islamabad. The operation was launched 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. The Pakistan government has blocked popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube amidst ongoing operation against protesters. The decision was taken after almost all news channels were suspended. The government sources say that the decision to shut down private news channels and social networking sites was taken in view of the experience of the military operation at the Lal Masjid in Islamabad. “At that time some media channels glorified suspected terrorists and vandals and there was a backlash due to this,” a source said. “In such a delicate situation there was also concerns that social networking sites would be used to spread unverified and false news/information and create panic and fear among the people,” another source said. A military spokesman said that army chief General Qamar Caved Bajwa talked to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on telephone and urged for peaceful solution to the problem.
So far police have failed to dislodge the protesters from Faizabad interchange which they have been occupying for about three weeks. At least one security person was killed and over 150 persons, including protesters and security personnel, were injured, police said. 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. 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.
The protesters attacked house of former interior minister Nisar Ali Khan in Faizabad area of Rawalpindi. They damaged the gate of his house and tried to enter the premises, but were prevented by police. Khan ia a former minister and his house is located very close to Fiazabad interchanged which has been occupied by the protesters for almost three weeks. It was not known whether the former minister was present inside the house at the time of attack. 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. Meanwhile, violence also erupted in many parts of Karachi where normal life was paralysed by protesters who forced shut down of markets, shops and petrol pumps. Pakistan’s biggest city and financial hub, Karachi had to resort to aerial firing and baton charges today to disperse and control protesters in many areas after a crackdown was launched at the Numaish roundabout on the M A Jinnah road.
The protesters had also gathered at Al-Asif square and tried to block the roads leading to Hyderabad, traffic police officials said. 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.