PM, COAS agree to avoid use of force against protesters


Police operation failed as protesters played trick
Sophia Siddiqui/Zubair Qureshi


Top civil and military leaders decided to engage the protesters in negotiations, discarding an option of using of force to disperse them.
Sources told this correspondent on Sunday that this was decided during high-level meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi here on Sunday.
Military officials, called for a peaceful solution of the sit-in and to refrain from any use of force. However, Pakistan army troops will be deployed only around strategic government buildings and remain restricted to sensitive areas of the federal capital city.
The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff Qamar Jawed Bajwa, Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Naveed Mukhtar, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif .
The army chief reportedly suggested that force should not be used against the protesters, as the support for the army is valuable asset and will not be used for petty gains.
The law and order situation in Pakistan is sending a negative image of the country across the world. Civil and military leaders also agreed that the army being a part of the state should be used as the last resort, and that troops will not be sent to assist the Police and law-enforcement agencies.
On the other side PM also held meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and discussed political situation of the country. Both dignitaries decided to engage religious parties and scholars to find a peaceful solution of the sit-in and take the military leadership into confidence over the issue.
Earlier, army was called out to control law and order situation of ICT on Saturday evening.
The government has called out the army to control the chaotic situation in Islamabad after a daylong botched operation to disperse protesters camping out at Faizabad Interchange.
The Ministry of Interior has issued a notification to authorize deployment of the Pakistan Army troops in the federal capital to assist civil authorities under Article 245 of the constitution.
According to the notification, the sufficient number of troops’ deployment is to be determined by the Commander of 111 Brigade to bring the situation under control, coming into effect from November 25 until further orders.
In reply Pakistan Army sought clarification from govt regarding deployment notification with subject : “Army ready to perform constitutional obligation but MO directorate has sought following clarifications “
The notification said that 1st. use of force as restrained by Islamabad high court in its judgement while clearing protest site.
2nd -Police wasn’t utilised to its full capability 3rd- Rangers being 2nd tier backing police was not given any written instruction as agreed for its employment .
3rd- Army is meant to use application of force which is traditionally not used for dispersal of protests . Clarity is required in the light of high court orders .
The issuance of notification to call the army came after a daylong crackdown against Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters to clear Faizabad Interchange, an arterial traffic intersection, of the federal capital city. However, the protesters seemed totally unmoved by the crackdown.
Meanwhile Protesters were keep chanting “Pak Fauj Zindabad” as military trucks were moving along the Express Highway.
Details of inconclusive police operation against the protesters at Faizabad are now available :
At a time when the law-enforcement agencies’ operation to clear the Faizabad Interchange from protesters Saturday morning was nearing its end and the top police officials were about to send a message of ‘Mission Accomplished’ to the Interior Minister the protesters played a clever move and upset all their plans. While talking to Pakistan Observer, a senior officer of the police who participated in the botched operation said here on Sunday, that everything was under control and we had occupied the dharna venue from three sides and were facing resistance only from one side near the main stage when we received a message from the leadership of the protesters that they were ready to shift the protest site to nearby Parade Ground if we let them do so. In fact, it was a clever move, a ploy by the dharna leaders and we were taken in, said the police official.
As soon as law enforcement force (LEF) stopped shelling and retreated to give them safe passage they called their support from the nearby seminaries and reorganized their protest with all the more resistance. The baffled police force now not only faced resistance from the front, they were also attacked from behind and in this way tables were turned on LEF and they had to back out quite demoralized.
Besides, Faizabad Interchange clearance operation could have completed within hours as was desired by all the stakeholders had the authorities not given orders of undue restraint to police and law-enforcing agencies. As a result of half-hearted exercise majority of the personnel of the participating forces including FC and the Rangers fell victim to the operation they themselves launched and sustained injuries when the protesters put up strong resistance and resorted to stone pelting. With orders from the District Magistrate and the Police high-ups to take care that none of the protesters is severely injured the Islamabad and Punjab police including the forces from AJK and other agencies found themselves quite helpless before trained groups of hooligans and saboteurs.
We were faced with trained military of rioters and violent supporters of the religious outfits but we had clear instructions not use force except tear gas shelling, said an ASI of I-9 police station who, too was injured in the stone-pelting by religious demonstrators. He said the protesters were not only trained but had made all the necessary preparations one night before and as soon as they saw the police force they took positions and retaliated the police action like a trained force. They were equipped not only with stones, rocks, glass bottles but they also had tear gas guns and fired at the police.
According to the police officer, undue restraint and precautions made it difficult to bring the operation to its logical end and now the government had to do the entire exercise from zero and make a careful strategy to deal with the protesters.

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