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Pakistani Forces Suspend Security Crackdown

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Police fire tear gas at protesters, who are blocking the capital to agitate against election law.

Security forces suspended an eight-hour-long crackdown against protesters in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, local media and officials reported.

The protesters had been blocking the main entrance from Rawalpindi city to capital Islamabad since early November.

A senior government speaking on condition of anonymity, due to restrictions on speaking to the media, told Anadolu Agency that the security forces have been asked not to take on the violent protesters till next orders. 

The change in strategy, the official said, was adopted after the country’s powerful army chief's suggestion to the prime minister to handle the sit-in peacefully.

In a tweet, the Director General Inter Service Public Relation (ISPR), Pakistan Army's media wing, said that Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and suggested that the sit-in be ended peacefully.

At least 160 injured were brought to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Dr. Altaf Hussain, the hospital's spokesman told Anadolu Agency, as police tried to disperse the protesters using teargas shells.

The crackdown came after the country’s top court ordered their removal, after protests paralyzed life in the twin cities and the last of a long series of deadlines lapsed without response from the agitating parties.  

Angry mob turns violent

Angry mobs set fire to four police vans and attacked journalists, local broadcaster Geo News reported.

Later during the day, news channels went off air, after a notification from Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) barred them from live telecasting the security operation.

Meanwhile, the government also shut down Facebook, Twitter and Youtube in Islamabad and Rawalpindi areas to block coverage of the security operation. 

Security forces arrested 150 protesters and shifted them to different police stations in Islamabad.

A mob attacked former Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan's house in Rawalpindi and broke the main gate of his house.

Scores of protesters also came out on the roads in different cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and other cities of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces to protest against the crackdown taking place in Islamabad. 

In Karachi, the country's commercial hub, 28 injured were brought to the state-run Jinnah Post Medical Center, according to a hospital spokesman.

The protests began on Nov. 8 with demands that the government restore a key clause about the finality of Prophet Mohammad under the Election Laws.

The clause was restored by the lower house of the parliament last week -- despite that the protests by Sunni-Barelivi group Tehrik-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool (Movement to Restore Finality of the Prophet) continued.

In a legislation billed last month, which was actually meant to pave way for the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to return as the ruling party head, following his ouster by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers scandal this July -- the clause was modified, something which the government called a “clerical mistake”. 

According to the restored clause, the voters at the time of registration for the general elections have to declare that they believe in the finality of Prophet Mohammad, failing which, their names will be included in a separate list for Ahmedis or Qadianis -- a minority sect which was declared non-Muslim by the parliament in 1974.

 

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