Rangers take control of sit-in area at Faizabad Interchange

Casey Dawson
November 29, 2017

Thousands of fresh protestors joined the sit-in in 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. "Government officials claimed the amendment was a clerical error and reversed the changes, but the damage was done".

Major highways in Punjab province, Pakistan's most populous, remained closed due to the protests on Sunday, said Imran Ahmed Shah, a motorway police spokesperson.

Video from the scene Saturday showed law enforcement forces carrying sticks and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.

The protests have spread to other cities, including the southern port of Karachi.

The federal government has summoned the troops exercising its authority under Article 245 of the Constitution that reads: "The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so".

Roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear took part in the clearance operation, which was launched soon after the final deadline of 7 a.m. given to protesters expired.

In a statement, the Army said the police "have not been optimally utilized to its full capacity" and cited a court order prohibiting the use of firearms to disperse the protest.

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As the clashes intensified, Pakistan's powerful military chief phoned the prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to urge the situation be handled "peacefully", military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Twitter.

But their weeks of inaction have sparked the wrath of residents as well as Pakistan's judiciary, with the Supreme Court issuing a blistering statement earlier in the week and the Islamabad High Court threatening to hold officials in contempt.

"Pakistan's government called on the powerful military to deploy in the capital Islamabad overnight after deadly unrest broke out when police moved to dislodge an Islamist protest that has brought the city to a near-standstill".

Meanwhile, journalists and their unions on November 26 were demanding that the government rescind an order that prevents private television channels from broadcasting coverage of the protests in Islamabad and other cities via cable.

Later in the day, security forces appeared to face difficulty clearing the crucial intersection as more and more supporters joined protesters at the site.

At least 12 people were reportedly injured in skirmishes with police at Stargate and Nursery. More than 20 injured were taken to other hospitals. At least 150 people are believed to have been arrested.

"There are attempts to create a chaos in the country", Mr Iqbal said on state-run Pakistan TV.

The Rangers also cordoned off the IJP Road, Expressway, Murree Road and the Faisal Avenue, the main thoroughfares of Islamabad, giving the impression that the force has taken over the city, local media reported.

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