ISLAMABAD: Protesters on Sunday clashed with security forces for a second day on the outskirts of Islamabad, burning vehicles before withdrawing to a protest camp they have occupied for more than two weeks, police said.
On Sunday morning, smoke billowed from the charred remains of a car and three motorcycles near the protest camp, where several thousand members of the Tehreek-e-Labaid party have gathered in defiance.
Police and paramilitary forces had surrounded the camp in the Faizabad district between the two cities, but no army troops were on the scene, despite a call the night before by the civilian government for the military to help restore order.
An interior ministry order last night said the federal government had authorised the deployment of “sufficient troops” to “control law and order” in the capital until further notice.
But early Sunday there was no official military response and no sign of armoured vehicles or soldiers on the streets. A military spokesman declined repeated requests for comment.
Private television broadcasts remained blocked and social media sites were restricted.
“I don’t have any clue what is happening,” Naeem, a worried resident told AFP in an Islamabad market.
“Only Allah is running this country,” he added, complaining that the only channel working was Pakistan state TV — and it was airing a children’s programme.
Earlier on Saturday, police and paramilitary forces pulled back from an operation to break up a huge sit-in that had paralysed Islamabad for weeks after their clearance operation turned deadly.
Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators but were met by stubborn resistance by protesters who blocked roads and torched vehicles around the site of the sit-in.
At least six people were killed and around 190 injured before security forces retreated on Saturday.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of demonstrators are believed to be still occupying roads and intersections connecting Islamabad with neighbouring Rawalpindi, with protesters posting videos late Saturday night of funeral prayers being recited at the sit-in.
The violent clashes spurred similar protests in major cities and towns nationwide.
Police in Karachi said some 200 protesters had blockaded a major road in the southern port, with at least 27 injured — including 22 people with gunshot wounds — brought to hospital, according to doctors.
Markets and shops were shuttered in the megacity, Pakistan’s commercial hub, as alarmed residents stayed inside, while hardline clerics urged more people to take to the streets.— AFP