Pakistan summons army after violent protests

Pakistani officials on Saturday summoned the army to restore order in Islamabad after hundreds of people were injured in violent protests over two weeks.

Pakistani security officials on Saturday arrest protesters who have blocked the main highway since Nov. 8 in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo by Sohail Shahzad/EPA
Pakistani security officials on Saturday arrest protesters who have blocked the main highway since Nov. 8 in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo by Sohail Shahzad/EPA

CNN reported more than 250 people were injured and at least two people died during the protests. The list of those injured includes 111 police or other security forces, Dr. Tahir Nadeem, a physician at Pakistani Institute of Medical Services, told Al Jazeera.

At least 8,000 police officers in riot gear and a paramilitary police force used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd of 2,000 protesters, according to a New York Times report. The demonstrators tossed rocks with their hands or slingshots.

Since Nov. 8, protesters have blocked a major road between Islamabad and Rawalpindi to highlight their demand for the resignation of Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid because of legislation that would scale back requirements for lawmakers to mention the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

The demonstrators support the hardline Islamist cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

The Times reported at least 150 protesters were arrested.

The protests spread to other cities in Pakistan, including Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad and Faisalabad. Like in Islamabad, they blocked main roads and caused traffic jams.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority took private television stations off the air. State-run PTV, which hasn’t been reporting on the protests, remains on the air.

By Allen Cone