ISLAMABAD: Top civil and military officials decided to engage the protesters in political negotiations, discarding an option relating use of force to disperse them, sources privy to development said on Sunday.
The military officials, during the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at PM House in Islamabad, called for a peaceful solution of the sit-in and to refrain from any use of force. However, Pakistan army troops will be deployed only around strategic government buildings and remain restricted to sensitive areas of the federal capital city.
Chief of Army Staff Qamar Jawed Bajwa, who reached the country on Saturday night after curtailing his visit to UAE attended the meeting. Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Naveed Mukhtar, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif were also present during the meeting.
The army chief reportedly suggested that the use of force should not be used against the protesters, as the support for the army is valuable asset and will not be used for petty gains.
Gen Bajwa reportedly suggested PM Abbasi to identify those responsible for the amendment in the oathtaken by parliamentarians, which ignited the chaos which has engulfed the nation.
The chaos and law and order situation is sending a negative image of Pakistan across the world. Both agreed that the army being a part of the state should be used as the last resort, and that troops will not be sent to assist the Police and law-enforcement agencies.
Gen Bajwa also suggested to revoke the ban on transmission of news channels, which was agreed by PM Abbasi and CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif.
Similar considerations were made at a meeting of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi earlier today. Both dignitaries decided to engage religious parties and scholars to find a peaceful solution of the sit-in and take the military leadership into confidence over the issue.
Two federal ministers expected to resign
In a late development, two federal ministers have offered their resignation. Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yusuf are expected to resign within the next two days.
Both ministers met with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif where the decision was made. Both were members of the parliamentary committee which made an amendment in a oath taken by parliamentarians reaffirming their faith in the finality of prophethood.
Army called out to control situation
The desperate government has called out the army to control the chaotic situation in Islamabad after a daylong botched operation to disperse protesters camping out at Faizabad Interchange.
The Ministry of Interior has issued a notification to authorize deployment of the Pakistan Army troops in the federal capital to assist civil authorities under Article 245 of the constitution.
According to the notification, the sufficient number of troops’ deployment is to be determined by the Commander of 111 Brigade to bring the situation under control, coming into effect from November 25 until further orders.
The issuance of notification came after a daylong crackdown against Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters to clear Faizabad Interchange, an arterial traffic intersection, of the federal capital city. However, the protesters seemed totally unmoved by the crackdown.
Army’s response to Interior Ministry’s call
In response to interior ministry’s call of the army development, Pakistan Army said its troops were fully ready to undertake the assigned task in line with its institutional obligations. However, there were few aspects merit deliberation prior to the troops’ deployment.
According to sources, the army, in its reply, noted that the police force has not been optimally used in dealing with the protesters, besides Punjab Rangers have not been given written instructions concerning their deployment as second tier force backing the police.
The reply further added the army traditionally deployed to quell riots rather than dispersing crowd.
In light of Islamabad High Court (IHC) orders, the communiqué said the court had barred the use of firearms against protesters and calling the army in implies ‘use of force’ while asking for a clarification on the matter.
Clashes continue for second day
The Tehreek-e-Laibaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters set five motorcycles and a vehicle ablaze after refusing to end their protest on second day. The reports of clashes have been reported at outskirts of federal capital city.
A policeman has been injured while two others have been detained by the unruly protesters.
The top leadership of TLP has been adamant to negotiate with authorities with a fresh demand of federal cabinet’s dissolution emerged after recent crackdown.
Punjab Rangers take charge of operation
Rangers have been given charge of the Islamabad operation to control the chaotic atmosphere in the federal capital city. Around 1,000 personnel of Punjab Rangers have taken position in the front line of the security operation while police along with FC personnel relegated to back positions.
Academic institutions to remain closed in Islamabad, Punjab
All educational institutions in Punjab will remain closed for next couple of days in wake of Islamabad operation against protesters camping out at Faizabad Interchange.
The decision has been taken after keeping the law and order situation of province in view, the provincial minister for education said.
The academies in Islamabad will also remain closed tomorrow.
After expiry of a deadline given to the protesters in Islamabad, the law enforcement agencies had launched a crackdown on Satuday morning to evict the demonstrators.
Islamabad police along with the personnel of the Frontier Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies had launched crackdown against the protesters who have camped out at the Faizabad Interchange for over two weeks. Hospital sources say at least five people were killed while 188 others were injured during the operation.
The government shut social media and asked cable operators to shut news channels across Pakistan after the protest spread to several other cities of the country.
Scroll down for Day One live updates:
11:00 PM- No talks
Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Rizvi announced that his party will not sit at the negotiating table until the those killed in the police operation are buried.
He repeated that now his party demands resignation not only from the law minister but the whole cabinet and announced to shut the whole country on Monday to protest his party workers’ killings during police operation.
08:43 PM- Interior Ministry calls in army to bring situation under control
Interior Ministry has issued a notification calling in army to bring the situation under control in Islamabad.
The notification says that army has called in line with Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Article 245 (1) of Constitution of Pakistan states that “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”.
08:01 PM- Protesters increase demands, now demand whole federal cabinet’s resignation
Protesters at Faizabad have reportedly increased their demands and are now demanding resignations from the whole federal cabinet.
Announcements made from several TLP leaders suggest that protesters will now only disperse when both Zahid Hamid and Ahsan Iqbal will resign.
05:40 PM- Govt mulls shutting mobile phone service: sources
Sources say that authorities have sent a summary to PM House seeking approval for shutting mobile phone service in all major cities of the country.
Sources say the suggestion is under consideration as protesters in Islamabad are contacting people in other cities to block roads and stage sit-ins so the authorities think shutting cellphone service will be helpful.
Man killed due to firing from Nisar’s house
5:35pm – One man was killed due to firing from former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s house, after the protesters tried to storm the house in Rawalpindi.
30-year-old Jahangir succumbed to his injuries while on the way to hospital.
PML-N’s Mian Javed injured in attack
5:20pm – Enraged protesters assaulted PML-N MNA Mian Javed Latif in Sheikhupura leaving him and his companions injured.
Armed men allegedly belonging TLP attacked the PML-N leader with batons.
Protesters storm Zahid Hamid’s house in Sialkot
5:17pm – Furious protesters attacked Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s ancestral residence in Sialkot and damaged the house.
The protesters entered the house by scaling the walls and damaged the property.
Man dies in police baton charge
4:48pm – A man and policeman have been killed so far in clashes. The injured man, who has been identified as Adeel, succumbed to head injuries during treatment.
158 injured in police-protesters clashes
4:36pm – As many as 158 injured were brought to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Hospital for treatment, hospital sources confirmed. This included 50 civilians, 48 personnel of Frontier Corps (FC) and 60 policemen.
Govt making all efforts to ensure ‘minimum losses’
4:12pm – Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal talking to ARY News said the decision of operation was undertaken keeping in view the court orders. He said the government is still trying to hold talks with the protesters to end the protest peacefully.
He reiterated that there was no legal justification to remain camped out at Faizabad Interchange in protest after the passage of bill concerning Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of the Prophethood) by both houses of the parliament.
He added the government is making all possible efforts to ensure ‘minimum loses’ as result of the ongoing crackdown.
Gen Bajwa calls for peaceful end to Islamabad sit-in
3:25pm – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed the situation emerging in the aftermath of crackdown on the Islamabad protesters over telephone. Gen Bajwa asked the PM to handle the sit-in peacefully while avoiding violence since it is not in the national interest and cohesion.
Facebook, Twitter down in Pakistan
2:49pm – People across the country are having problems accessing social media networking sites including Facebook and Twitter amid ongoing crackdown against the defiant Islamabad protesters. Internet service has also been suspended in the Islamabad’s Faizabad and adjoining areas.
Around 140 people injured in clashes
2:30pm – Around 140 people have injured in the clashes that began on Saturday morning when some 4,000 personnel of the police and FC launched the operation to disperse around 2,000 activists of the religo-political party.
News channels go off air in Islamabad
2:00pm – Several news channels went off air in the capital and other parts of the country after the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) decided to take private television channels off air during a police crackdown on Islamabad protesters.
Protesters re-occupy Faizabad Interchange
1:45pm – Within four hours of the crackdown, the security forces in heavy anti-riot gear forced the protesters to retreat, but they seemed to be helpless now as the protesters have re-occupied the Faizabad Interchange despite more than 150 protesters having been arrested.
Pemra ordered to take all TV channels off the air
12:59pm – In a latest move, Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has decided to take all TV channels off the air on orders of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Earlier, Pemra had asked the TV channels to stop live coverage of Islamabad protest.
Protests spread to other cities
12:35am – With the security forces lobbing teargas shells on stone-throwing workers of a religious group camped out at Islamabad’s busy Faizabad Interchange to break their sit-in, the effects of crackdown seemed to be spilling over in other parts of the country.
In Karachi, activists of the same religious parties have blocked major city roads, causing severe traffic jams. The protests have been staged at Numaesh, Shahrah-i-Faisal, Hassan Square, Nipa, Sohrab Goth.
Govt prepares summary to call in army for defiant protesters
12:10am – The government, according to reports, has prepared a summary to call in army to deal with the protesters occupying Faizabad Interchange for 20 days.
Emergency imposed across hospitals
11:37am – After four hours of constant attempt by security forces to disperse the protester and injuries to more than 100 persons – majority of them security officials, the administration has imposed emergency across hospitals.
According to current reports, 60 of the injured persons have been taken to PIMS Hospital while 40 to Poly Clinic.
Police van set on fire by protesters
11:22am – Defiant protesters have set on fire police van near Faizabad Interchange, making the situation more violent and prompting the forces to revisit their strategy.
47 persons including 22 security personnel injured in crackdown against protesters
11:05am – According to latest reports, at least 22 security personnel among 47 persons have sustained injuries in the ongoing operation. FC personnel have set alight camps set up by protesters to prevent them re-occupying their bases.
Prevent loss of life is Islamabad operation at all costs, ousted PM Nawaz orders officials
10:55am – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met ousted PM Nawaz Sharif at Raiwand and briefed him on the ongoing security operation at Faizabad Interchange.
No security official carrying a weapon in operation: Interior Minister
10:40am – Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal says none of the security personnel are carrying weapons in the operation against Islamabad protesters. They are just using the tear gas, said the minister.
10:15am – The security personnel are firing bullets into the air and lobbing teargas shells to disperse the protesters. In response, the protesters are hurling stones at the personnel, turning the protest site into a virtual battleground.
Some security personnel have received injuries as a result of the stone-pelting. Live footage showed thick clouds of smoke billowing from the site as personnel in heavy riot gear used intense teargas to control the crowd. Dozens of protesters have also been taken into custody.
9:45am – Teargas shelling has forced the protesters to retreat as they have dispersed and headed towards streets to find a refuge from tear gas. Some of the protesters have also blocked the Taramari chowk, and Murree Road.
9:17am – The personnel have advanced and gained control over 40 per cent of the area occupied by the protesters. They have uprooted several tents set up by the protesters.
8:53am – The police and FC personnel are facing immense hardship in clearing the area as the protesters seemed to be defiant in the face of police action.
The protest leaders are encouraging their workers over loudspeakers to stay together and put up a strong resistance.
7:40am – The law enforcement agencies launched the operation after the capital administration’s final deadline of 7am to end the sit-in expired.
“Leaders of the sit-in and participants will be responsible in case of any operation against the sit-in,” the administration had warned a day earlier.
Court orders shake the government
Expressing extreme displeasure over the government for its failure to clear the capital’s busy artery of protesters, the Islamabad High Court on Friday issued a show cause notice to Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui directed the interior minister to appear before the court on Monday along with an explanation for flouting its order with regard to evicting the defiant protesters from the Faizabad Interchange.
He observed that fundamental rights of the people were being violated. “This is the failure of the government,” Justice Siddiqui noted, adding “but we will not let the state to fail.”
On Thursday, the Supreme Court expressed extreme annoyance over the government for its failure to end the Faizabad sit-in.
A two-judge bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, rejected the reports submitted by the intelligence agencies and directed them to inform it as to who is funding the protesters.
It observed that the court was not asking to spray the protesters with bullets, but want to know whether any investigation was carried out to ascertain who was bankrolling them.
Interior minister smells political goals in dharna
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday said the Islamabad protesters have political ambitions as they wanted to garner support ahead of the next elections.
He said the protesters wanted to dent the ruling party’s vote bank, by pitting the PML-N against a particular sect.
Iqbal said the government is actively engaged in dialogue with the protesters to find a peaceful end to the protest.
He said he can clear the Faizabad Interchange of the protesters within three hours, but it could led to bloodshed or a repeat of the Lal Masjid operation.
The interior minister said there was no justification for seeking the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid since he had no role in the now-withdrawn amendment in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat declaration for electoral candidates.
Why it all started?
Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah has been protesting for over a fortnight, demanding action against those responsible for making now-withdrawn amendment to the clause pertaining to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath for electoral candidates and the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
“If the government send the law minister packing, it would eventually set a wrong precedent,” the Interior Minister had said, adding, there was no proof that he was responsible for the amendment.