Vastavam web: Clashes today broke out here as security forces launched a crackdown on protesters belonging to hardline religious groups who were blocking a key highway to the capital, leaving one policeman dead and over 200 others injured and triggering violent demonstrations in other cities.The government ordered suspension of private TV channels and blocked popular social media sites as police and paramilitary personnel fought pitched battles with the activists of Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) who torched vehicles and attacked the houses of political leaders.
They alleged the action undermined Islamic beliefs and linked it to blasphemy. The government already amended the law and restored the original oath but the hardline clerics refused to go away until the minister was sacked.The siege played havoc with the more than half million commuters who daily travel between Islamabad and Rawalpindi.More than 8,000 personnel of police and paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Constablary launched the crackdown to clear Faizabad interchange linking Islamabad with garrison city of Rawalpindi and the only international airport of the capital.
In the morning hours, it looked that the police would clear the roads but the protesters regrouped by mid-day to re-occupy the interchange bridge, forcing the authorities to suspend the operation temporarily.At least one policeman reportedly died due head injury, but the government has so far not confirmed the death.Private media reported that two protesters also died in the clashes, but it could not be independently confirmed.
TV footage showed police firing teargas shells and security personnel in riot gears charging at the protesters dozens of whom were arrested and shifted to various police stations.Pakistan blocked popular social media site including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stop protesters from uploading their messages.Violent protests were also reported from several other cities including Karachi and Lahore.
In the commercial hub of Karachi, at least 28 people were injured, according to local police.Protesters attacked the house of federal law minister Zahid Hamid in Pasroor area of Sialkot district of Punjab but no one was injured as the minister and his family were not present inside.In the midst of challenging law and order situation, interior minister Ahsan Iqbal alleged involvement of Indian hand in the mischief and said protesters “contacted India” and the government was probing it.
“Why they did it (contacted India), we are looking into it. They (protesters) have inside information and resources that are being used against the state,” he said.Iqbal said government was implementing court’s orders to disperse the protesters.”COAS [chief of army staff] telephoned PM. 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.Earlier, the IHC last Friday gave a 24-hour deadline to the government to clear the roads which was later extended till Thursday.