Pakistan's army silent as Islamists, police clash again

By REUTERS
November 26, 2017 12:36
1 minute read.
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FAIZABAD, Pakistan - Islamist party activists on Sunday clashed with Pakistani security forces for a second day outside the capital, Islamabad, burning vehicles before withdrawing to a protest camp they have occupied for more than two weeks, police said.

Despite order from the civilian government to the army on Saturday night to help restore order, no troops were at the scene around the protest camp in Faizabad, on the outskirts of the capital, witnesses said.

The military's press department did not respond to queries about the government's order.

According to media reports at least six people were killed on the previous day, when several thousand police and paramilitary forces tried to disperse the religious hardliners, who have blocked the main route into the capital demanding that the law minister be fired for committing blasphemy.

At least 150 people were wounded in Saturday's clashes, hospitals reported, and police superintendent Amir Niazi said 80 members of the security forces were among those casualties. Reuters could not confirm that there had been any deaths.

On Sunday morning, smoke billowed from the charred remains of a car and three motorcycles burned that morning near the protest camp, where several thousand members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party have gathered in defiance of the government.

After the early morning clashes, the area settled into an uneasy stand-off. The paramilitary Rangers force - which had held back from Saturday's confrontation - was in charge of Sunday's operations, officers said.

"We still don't have orders to launch an operation. We will act as the government orders us," said Rangers commander at the scene Colonel Bilal, who gave only one name. "We have surrounded the protesters from all sides. We can move in when the government orders us."

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