Dead, 150 Injured After Violent Clashes Between Forces And Islamist Protesters

Army ‘fully ready’ to assist in Islamabad sit-in
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The protests, which spread on Saturday to several other cities in Pakistan, have left about 200 injured, including dozens of police officers.

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.

Seemingly emboldened by the failure of the government to clear the protests, which have almost paralysed the capital, Khadim Hussain Rizvi - the firebrand cleric who leads the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan party - has called for protesters to bring the whole country to a halt.

A crackdown against religious protesters camped out at Islamabad "s Faizabad Interchange was 'suspended" on Saturday evening as thousands of protesters took over the streets in the federal capital. "TV channels are advised to exhibit utmost sensitivity regarding the matter and refrain from live coverage", it added. "Suggested to handle Islamabad Dharna (sit-in) peacefully avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest and cohesion", said spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor.

Angry mobs earlier set fire to four police vans and attacked journalists, local broadcaster Geo News reported. The government puts the issue down to a clerical error. Helicopters and drones are being used by the authorities for aerial surveillance.

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However, the protesters regrouped agian and continued their siege of the capital that started about three weeks ago, demanding sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for changes in a law related to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (finality of prohpethood) oath in the Elections Act 2017.

Islamabad city magistrate yesterday issued a warning to protesters to disperse by midnight or face consequences.

The demonstrators support the hardline Islamist cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Protesters, some wearing gas masks, fought back in scattered battles across empty highways and surrounding neighbourhoods. Traffic jam has choked arteries near Data Darbar.

The Pakistani government has blocked social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube amid the ongoing operation against protesters.

Private television channels in Pakistan were taken off the air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, according to a message slate that replaced the channels' programming.

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