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Pakistan Government Calls In Army After Islamabad Clashes


Pakistani Police Launch Operation To Clear Islamist Rally
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ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's government has authorized the military to deploy troops in the capital, Islamabad, where violent clashes between hard-line religious protesters and security forces killed at least six people and injured more than 200 others.

"At least six people have been killed in the clashes, and four have been identified," Deeba Shahaz of Islamabad’s Rescue Department said on November 25.

An Interior Ministry order said that the federal government had authorized the deployment of "sufficient troops" to "control law and order" in the city until further notice.

Reports said the soldiers were to be deployed to secure sensitive installations and offices housing the judiciary, parliament, presidency, prime minister, and foreign office, as well as diplomatic enclaves.

The move came after security forces fought running battles with supporters of an Islamist group who have been camped out at a key intersection linking Islamabad with the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi.

By nightfall, reports said that new demonstrators had joined the camp as protests spread to other cities and towns, including the southern port city of Karachi.

Shortly after dawn, 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear launched an operation to clear the intersection where about 2,000 supporters of the Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party have been demonstrating for three weeks.

Police initially arrested dozens of people after using tear gas to disperse protesters who were resisting by throwing stones.

An Islamabad police spokesman confirmed that a policeman died in the violence after he was struck in the head by a rock.

An AFP journalist at the scene of the violence reporting seeing what appeared to be the dead body of at least one demonstrator lying on the road.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad told REFE/RL that 150 injured people had been taken to the hospital for treatment.

The hospital spokesman said 101 of the injured people were members of the security forces.

Pakistan's media regulator barred local TV channels from broadcasting live footage from the scene as the violence intensified.

The operation to clear the intersection came after a court ordered the protest to stop, saying it had disrupted normal activity in the city.

The authorities had given the demonstrators until midnight to end their sit-in demonstration that began on November 6 and blocked a main road into Islamabad that is used by thousands of commuters.

The protesters have been demanding that Pakistani Law Minister Zahid Hamid resign over a hastily abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear.

The oath omitted reference to the Prophet Muhammad, which the protesters say is blasphemy.

The demonstrators also claim that the oath was softened in order to allow the participation in elections of Ahmadis, a long-persecuted Islamic minority sect whose members are considered non-Muslims by mainstream Sunni Muslims.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Dawn