Pakistan’s government ordered paramilitary forces known as the rangers into Islamabad to clear protesters from a right-wing religious party, who have held the capital city under siege for three weeks, after the army
called for a peaceful solution.
Major General Azhar Hayat Khan
of the rangers was named by the government to be “in charge of an operation to handle and clear the sit-in” by protesters, after eight people including two police
officers died in clashes. Army
chief Qamar Javed Bajwa
met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
on Sunday and advised against deploying the army, Dawn television channel reported.
Abbasi’s government on Saturday had ordered the army
to move in as a “preventive measure” after police
suspended their efforts to disperse the protesting religious group. Demonstrators reoccupied and blocked the main highway that connects Islamabad to other cities.
The upheaval may unnerve investors ahead of a government plan to sell international
bonds in the coming week. Pakistan could raise as much as $2 billion from the sale of conventional and sukuk bonds, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
said in an interview Friday. The political risks will make it hard to raise the required amount without increasing the yields, according to Shamoon Tariq, Stockholm-based vice chief investment officer at Tundra Fonder AB. “We have seen politics
playing an important role in decision making of investors in” developing countries, Tariq said.
Earlier on Saturday, army
chief Qamar Javed Bajwa
called Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
on the phone and suggested handling the protest peacefully, army
spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Twitter. The government also suspended the broadcast of all non-state television channels as protests spread to other cities including second biggest Lahore and the financial hub of Karachi.
“We are aware of reports that the Pakistani government has taken action to block Twitter service, as well as other social media services, and that users are having difficulty using Twitter in Pakistan,” Twitter’s public policy team wrote on its account at about 10:30 pm in Islamabad. “We are monitoring the situation and hope service will be fully restored soon.”
Clerics and supporters of a little-known right-wing religious group — Tehreek-e-Labaik — have been blocking a main highway for more than two weeks, effectively besieging Islamabad. The group is demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for making changes to an oath lawmakers have to take. Hamid tweaked a declaration that Muhammad is the last prophet of Islam — a move seen to accommodate the persecuted minority Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, which believes in an additional prophet after Muhammad. Within days, the government withdrew the change in the oath, fearing a backlash by religious groups.
have failed to clear the protesters despite an order from the high court to end the protest.