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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership decided on Sunday that the army will not participate in the crackdown on the religious protesters, who have been blocking the main highway into Islamabad, demanding the resignation of federal law minister Zahid Hamid.
CNN had earlier reported that the simmering tension between protesters and law enforcing agencies erupted into violence on Sunday, with at least two people being killed.
Following the violence, a civil-military huddle chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI Chief Naveed Mukhtar, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Home Minister Ahsan Iqbal, advocated a “political settlement”, and said the army would only safeguard the important buildings and government installations in Islamabad.
Earlier the military had asked for ‘clarifications’ regarding some matters before they step in on government’s demand following a failed operation to disperse the protesters and asked for the “optimal use of police” before stepping in.
Citing the Islamabad High Court order, which had called for the eviction of protesters, the communique said that the court had barred the use of firearms against the protesters and calling the army in implies the use of force.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) also restored transmission of private television news channels across the country, which went off air on Saturday when the civilian law enforcement agencies were retreating after the enraged protesters had violently responded to their crackdown.
According to sources, the broadcast of the news channels was restored on the directives of General Bajwa. The media regulator, however, said that social networking websites would remain blocked in the country until the improvement of law and order situation.
The ongoing protest was caused by a missing clause in the Elections Act 2017 passed in September, angering the protesters, who are objecting to the changes made in Khatm-i-Nabuwwat or finality of Prophet Muhammad in an oath.
Religious groups, led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi of political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, have been demanding the law minister’s resignation. Other fundamentalist groups like Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat and Sunni Tehreek Pakistan have also joined in.