Thousands of people have taken to the streets to continue their protest against the Government after hundreds were injured and six killed as police failed to disperse the Islamist rallies earlier this week, Agencies report.
The 3,000-strong rally near Islamabad is braced for another military crackdown, and protesters have reportedly torched several vehicles and a guard post. No casualties have yet been reported.
Tensions escalated after Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah demanded that Pakistan’s law minister to resign as he did not include a reference to the Prophet Muhammad in a parliamentary bill.
Despite Zahid Hamid apologising for his error, the new and extreme political party is calling for his arrest. Unrest has spread to multiple cities, including Karachi, Lahore and Multan, and protesters have staged sit-ins and blocked roads into the capital for two weeks.
“God willing we will get victory and will disperse with honour,” cleric Mohammad Shahid Chishti told The Associated Press. The military tried to break up the protests over the weekend, wielding batons and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds.
Around 200 people – many of them police officers – were taken to hospital with injuries and respiratory problems. Six people were killed near the Faizabad crossing, a main intersection outside Islamabad.
Pakistan has shut down access to social media websites and stopped media broadcasts for two consecutive days, claiming the media violated government policy of showing live coverage of security operations.
In the wake of unrest, Pakistan’s opposition party leader Imran Khan has called for elections sooner than the planned election next summer.
The country is still being governed by the party of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – removed by the supreme court in July over financial irregularities.
Ultra-religious groups are unlikely to gain a majority in the upcoming election but they could have a major influence on politics and are gaining ground in local elections.