Four dead, more than 170 injured as police try to disperse protesters from Faizabad Interchange

ISLAMABAD: After expiry of a deadline given to the protesting workers of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) occupying busy Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad, the law enforcement agencies launched a crackdown Saturday morning to evict the demonstrators.

Islamabad police along with the personnel of the Frontier Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies have launched crackdown against the protesters who have camped out at the Faizabad Interchange for over two weeks.

The government has shut social media and asked cable operators to shut news channels across Pakistan after the protest spread to several other cities of the country.

Hospital sources say at least four people were killed while 178 others were injured in police operation against protesters at the main Faizabad Interchange sit-in.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A civilian and policeman have been killed so far in clashes. The injured civilian, who has been identified as Adeel, succumbed to head injuries during treatment.

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.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.