At least six people were killed and around 230 injured after police and security forces tried to clear anti-blasphemy protestors in Islamabad late on Saturday, AFP reported.
After the deaths, top civil and military officials on Sunday decided to not use force to disperse the protestors and negotiate with them, instead, Dawn reported, citing unidentified officials. By evening, the Pakistan Rangers took control of the area occupied by anti-blasphemy protestors in Islamabad, and the police and Frontier Corps troopers were deployed in other parts of the city, Radio Pakistan reported.
The Tehreek-i-Labaik – a little known hardline group that began a sit-in on November 6 – has been leading the protests since the Pakistan government amended the oath election candidates must take while they are sworn in.
The change was called a mistake and was quickly reversed, but the demonstrators have linked it to blasphemy. They have demanded that Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation for overseeing the amendment. By Saturday, the protests spread and clerics from the Tehree-i-Labaik began calling for Pakistanis to come and defend the “honour of the Prophet”.
The sit-in blocked major roads and caused traffic jams, prompting the judiciary to pull up officials for not acting. On Saturday, 8,500 armed security personnel, including the police and paramilitary forces confronted the protestors. The two sides hurled rocks at each other, and demonstrators blocked more roads and set vehicles on fire.
The government then ordered security officials to suspend the operation and asked the Army for help. An Interior Ministry order said the government had authorised the deployment of “sufficient troops” to “control law and order” in the Capital.
On Sunday, the Pakistan Rangers also cordoned off four main thoroughfares of Islamabad, the Hindustan Times reported, citing local media sources.
Meanwhile, private television broadcasts were blocked and use of social media sites were restricted.